New smartphone controls may appeal to IT managers

RIM adds fail-over functions and simplifies admin tools in BlackBerry Enterprise Server.

"BlackBerry is obviously a critical component to our overall communications infrastructure," added Tony Disalvatore, director of CareGroup's messaging server team. "Any outage would affect over 600 users."

Walker noted that Argon's new Web-based console allows IT executives to limit the administrative functions any single IT employee can control. For example, managers can whitelist or blacklist a single user for certain applications with the click of a mouse, he said.

Natan Glaich, IT director at Jam Industries said he hopes that the new administrative console will significantly ease the job of managing the BlackBerry devices used at his firm.

The promised Web-based console would eliminate the need for a fat client to run a console, as was required in Version 4.16, which Jam is now using, Glaich noted.

More than 50 employees of Jam, a distributor of musical instruments and equipment, travel worldwide and often use BlackBerries to communicate, he said.

Competing Options

Dulaney believes that the promised upgrades in the RIM management tool set should keep it ahead of competing offerings. However, he pointed out that Microsoft's bundle of mobile device management tools, System Center Mobile Device Manager, is closing the gap.

In fact, Microsoft's offering could soon become a viable alternative to even the upgraded RIM tool set, said Stephen Drake, an analyst at market research firm IDC.

Drake noted that the upgraded RIM offering still lacks strong enterprise asset management tools, which would provide IT managers with data on how many versions and models of BlackBerry devices are used in a large deployment. Users must still rely on third-party vendors for those capabilities, he added.

IDC estimates that 175,000 BlackBerry Enterprise Servers are installed worldwide.

Most of the other options for managing smartphone devices include stand-alone, single-function tools from vendors such as Sybase, Zenprise and Mformation Technologies, as well as more broad systems-management products like Hewlett-Packard's OpenView, CA's Unicenter and IBM's Tivoli, analysts said.

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