RIM to offer multiplatform device management

The BlackBerry Mobile Fusion product will manage Android, iOS, BlackBerry and BBX devices

Research In Motion is taking on mobile device management for Android and Apple iOS devices as well as its own products, introducing the BlackBerry Mobile Fusion product on Tuesday.

BlackBerry Mobile Fusion is designed to simplify the management of phones and tablets that run RIM's current BlackBerry OS and the emerging BBX platform, which is based on the QNX software that currently powers RIM's PlayBook tablet. But Mobile Fusion will also manage devices using the two biggest mobile OSes, Android and iOS.

The growing number of corporate and employee-owned mobile devices poses a challenge for enterprises that want to let employees choose their own devices, while making sure sensitive data remains secure and business applications uncorrupted. Numerous vendors have weighed in with tools to handle these tasks, including Sybase, Zenprise and FiberLink. But RIM, which largely introduced mobile devices to large enterprises and is still a major player in this market, has not managed other vendors' devices.

When companies allow employees to bring their own smartphones and tablets into corporate offices and to use them for work, they can no longer dictate a standard platform and build a device management strategy around it. Managing those diverse fleets of devices has fallen mostly to third parties rather than mobile platform purveyors themselves.

Because of its long enterprise experience and reputation for security, RIM may be better suited than its mobile OS rivals to dive into mobile management as a business. But the company also is strongly motivated to make its customers happy, as sales of its smartphones decline and shipping dates for some products slip. Version 2.0 of its PlayBook operating system, originally expected in October, now is set for delivery in the first quarter of next year. The company hasn't even given a firm date for availability of the first smartphones based on QNX.

Other big mobile OS vendors are making strenuous efforts to capture market share from RIM in enterprises. With its planned purchase of Motorola Mobility, Google will also acquire 3LM, which makes software to secure all the apps on an Android phone. The 3LM software is already built into the entire phone lineups of a dozen handset makers, Motorola said last month. Apple has steadily added enterprise-friendly features to iOS, and a survey released earlier this month showed iPhones overtaking BlackBerry devices among workers at 1,100 companies around the world.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

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