With the new generation of BlackBerry handsets now just a few months away from launch, RIM is gearing up for its do-or-die enterprise push.
The first two new BlackBerry devices will be announced in January, so it's likely they will be available before the end of February. And along with the new hardware comes a, perhaps even more important, major rethink of RIM’s suite of device management products.
At the basic level, organisations can use BlackBerry 10 devices without RIM’s BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES), Jeff Holleran, senior director of enterprise product management at RIM told ZDNet: "We've designed the device so if you're a company that doesn't have a management solution in place, but has a messaging server in place that offers ActiveSync for connectivity, that end-user can connect them right up at the point of purchase to their enterprise account through ActiveSync."
For companies that want more sophisticated management, right now RIM offers BES 5 to support its existing mobile devices and Mobile Fusion to manage its PlayBooks, as well as third-party iOS and Android devices. But RIM's current BES product won't be able to manage the new BlackBerry 10 phones.
As a result, in the first quarter of 2013 RIM will offer an upgrade in the form of BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10 (BES 10). That will give companies the option of adding BlackBerry 10 devices into the BlackBerry Device Service system said Holleran.
"We're also going to be continually enhancing our UDS [Universal Device Service] component for third-party devices and those are all components that as a BES 10 family can sit on one server," Holleran added.
This is the first step to consolidating RIM’s management products, he explained.
"Where we're going with all of this though is to bring it together into another service pack in the May time frame, and in that May update we'll bring the full platform to bear where it's one single platform for managing all of the devices [...] that use the ActiveSync as its main messaging protocol," Holleran said. "Once we've do that in May we'll also allow you to upgrade your BES 5 server with BES 10 so it runs both servers on the same physical or logical server."
Once you get to that point, businesses will have a single UI for managing all of its users and devices, whether it's BES 5, BES 10, EAS or something else.
A fine balance?
Let's not forget BlackBerry Balance either, RIM's answer to keeping work and personal content and apps separate on the devices, which has been knocking around since the start of 2011 and will play its part in keeping sensitive work data out of the wrong hands.
"The work side of the device is designed for the enterprise and the parts of the device that the enterprise would control. One of the things we've learnt over time is that corporation wants to control their intellectual property and care most about securing their data on a device," said Holleran.
This applies to apps too; so, apps installed in the 'work' space will still run when in the 'personal' space but it can't access any of the data stored in the other section. So, for example, you couldn't copy data from an email in your work account and paste it into your Facebook app on the personal side.
RIM hasn't written off managing Microsoft's new Windows Phone 8 mobile platform either, but is not yet committed to extending its management tools to the new devices.
Holleran said. "So far we haven't seen a lot of demand from our enterprise customers that are looking to bring those devices in and looking for a deeper management perspective. If the opportunity is there in the market, we've built a platform that is easily extensible to it."