BlackBerry 10 OS to Support Microsoft ActiveSync, No BES: What It Means for IT

IT administrators will be able to connect new BlackBerry smartphones running RIM's upcoming BlackBerry 10 OS directly to Microsoft Exchange corporate servers using Microsoft's ActiveSync technology, eliminating the need for a BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES). However, RIM VP Alan Panezic explains what Mobile Fusion will mean to BlackBerry admins and why it's not time to ditch BES just yet.

Mon, February 27, 2012

CIO — Late last summer, when rumors about Research In Motion's (RIM) next generation smartphone OS and handhelds first hit the Web, one particularly hard-to-believe report on suggested that RIM's first device running the shiny new OS, which is officially called BlackBerry 10, would not connect to RIM's corporate BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) and would instead use Microsoft's popular ActiveSync technology to access corporate mail and PIM apps.

And as it turns out, the report was mostly accurate. In fact, none of RIM's new BlackBerry 10 smartphones will connect to BES, and all of them will support ActiveSync. But that's not the whole story.

RIM's Alan Panezic
RIM VP of Enterprise Product Management, Alan Panezic

RIM's BlackBerry 10 OS will not work will existing versions of BES, but it will employ what RIM VP of Enterprise Product Management Alan Panezic calls "the next generation of BES:" BlackBerry Mobile Fusion.

BlackBerry Mobile Fusion, which is currently available for download in an early, BlackBerry-PlayBook-tablet-only version, is a new software component that will integrate with organizations' existing BlackBerry infrastructure and eventually allow them to manage and secure "smartphones and tablets from any manufacturer", according to Panezic. The initial version of Mobile Fusion with full Android and iOS management features will be released in late March, Panezic says. And RIM will update the software frequently to take advantage of any new security features that Google or Apple build into their respective software over time.

"RIM will not hold anything back," Panezic says. "If there's a security capability that's available we're going to take advantage of whatever is there."

Mobile Fusion is currently available in a free-trial version for 90 days for up to 500 users for the BlackBerry PlayBook only, you must be running the latest version of BES, v5.0.3 to use it. Both Microsoft Exchange and IBM Lotus Domino are supported, and Novell GroupWise support will be rolled out at a later date, Panezic says.

New BlackBerry 10 smartphones will be able to use ActiveSync in the future to connect to Exchange Servers--just like the PlayBook tablet, thanks to the new PlayBook OS 2.0 software update. However, organizations with BlackBerry 10 smartphones that want or need the same level of IT security and management that's currently available via BES should use BlackBerry Mobile Fusion. In other words, a direct BlackBerry 10 or PlayBook connection to Exchange still uses ActiveSync but does not offer any sort of trusted secure communications channel like the one afforded by BES or Mobile Fusion, according to Panezic.

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