BlackBerry BES goes cross-platform, lets IT manage iPhone, iPad, and Android

BlackBerry BES goes cross-platform, lets IT manage iPhone, iPad, and Android

Summary: CIO-favorite BlackBerry Enterprise Server will soon offer its enterprise security and manageability for iOS and Android devices. It's a good sign for RIM and good news for IT administrators.


The biggest pitch RIM makes for businesses to adopt BlackBerry devices is that they are a lot more secure and easier for IT to manage, which -- more than the devices themselves -- is made possible by the BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) backend. RIM appears to have accepted that it's living in a pluralistic mobile world and that it can no longer use BES to force companies to only support BlackBerry devices because on Monday at BlackBerry World 2011 RIM announced plans for a multiplatform upgrade to BES that will allow it to also support and manage iPhone, iPad, and Android smartphones and tablets.

Photo credit: Jason Hiner

At the opening press conference of BlackBerry World 2011 in Orlando, RIM admitted that CIOs have been pressuring the company to allow BES to iOS and Android devices in addition to BlackBerry devices.

In order to make this happen quickly, RIM announced that it is acquiring ubitexx, which makes a cross-platform device management solution that not only support iOS and Android, but also Microsoft and Nokia devices. The upgraded version of BES will be released "later this year."

RIM was careful to note: "Overall, as is largely understood in the enterprise market today, organizations can expect a range of security, manageability and controls depending on different device platform capabilities, with some devices further limited by the design of their operating system."

In other words, not all of the devices have a great security model for how they handle data, encryption, remote administration, etc. That's where RIM will still pitch the BlackBerry as the most secure and IT-controllable device, while also offering some backend management for other devices, especially the ones users themselves are bringing into the organization.

The other big update to BES that RIM announced was a new and improved Web console for IT administrators. Here's RIM's description (from the official press release):

The single web-based console is being designed to provide IT administrators with a simple and efficient way to distribute software and manage policies, inventory, security and services for BlackBerry devices, as well as other mobile devices. IT administrators will be able to manage devices over-the-air, including activating devices, distributing software and applications, locking or wiping devices, enforcing and resetting device passwords, setting IT policies, and managing optional mobile applications for end users. Certain features are expected to remain exclusive to BlackBerry devices because such capabilities are built into the design of a device's operating system. Examples include RIM's industry-leading push technology, network and data usage efficiency, behind-the-firewall access to enterprise applications and systems, and many of the over 550 IT policies available through BlackBerry Enterprise Server.

Bottom line

Overall, it's hard to see the cross-platform play as anything but a wise move for RIM. It allows the company to play to its strengths and continue to sell its CIO-favorite BES platform to high-security environments like governments and financial services companies that no longer want or need an all-BlackBerry solution. And, for the companies that implement BES as a cross-platform solution, it still allows RIM to pitch BlackBerry devices as an upsell for security and manageability.

However, the most important factor may be RIM acknowledging that it's going to have to survive in a mobile world where it's no longer the king of the hill -- even in the enterprise. It's also good to see RIM beefing up and putting the spotlight on BES, which could turn out to be the company's more valuable asset in the long run than BlackBerry devices, which are in the midst of a difficult and uncertain platform transition as well as intense competition from Apple, Google, and Microsoft.

Topics: Hardware, Android, CXO, Google, iPhone, iPad, Mobile OS, Mobility, BlackBerry

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  • Step in the right direction.

    All in all a good move by RIM, something that should have been supported a long time ago. One of the first "good" decisions made by RIM in a long time. Integrating other software into/as their own has never been a strength for RIM so we will see. I can't believe they have to acquire someone to get this done. Does RIM not have any programmers left? Unreal... My gut tells me that someone will beat them to the punch on this. With a scaled down simpler version. Asentinel, MasS360 and Notify Corp already have cross platform management tools. Problem with BES is that they have never been able to scale it to the SMB market. It is a beast of an application and unless you have used it for a decade, its a bit ominous, incredibly powerful, but not intuitive. So while they are at it, they should give the interface and usability a face-lift as well. Too little too late's going to be a long, hard battle to stay in the game.
    • RE: BlackBerry BES goes cross-platform, lets IT manage iPhone, iPad, and Android

      From what I see people saying on here it will be big deal sine BES cost more then exchange that every other platform can use other than bb. <a href="">HCG Weight Loss</a>
  • Really??

    so does this mean my company will allow me to ditch the BB and pick up an iOS device instead? Then, wow! Thanks RIM, you are getting my love for this. I would say for RIM to survive, ditch making crap phones and concentrate only on the backend infrastructure
    • RE: BlackBerry BES goes cross-platform, lets IT manage iPhone, iPad, and Android

      I really appreciate you sharing this article with us. It was a Brilliant read. Thanks!<a href="">teacher training</a>
    • RE: BlackBerry BES goes cross-platform, lets IT manage iPhone, iPad, and Android

      From what I see people saying on here it will be big deal sine BES cost more then exchange that every other platform can use other than bb. <a href="">MBA Thesis Writing</a>
  • RE: BlackBerry BES goes cross-platform, lets IT manage iPhone, iPad, and Android

    So RIM realizes that it is getting its ass handed to them, and they decide to essentially give a path for corporate email which then relies on their BES-supported infrastructure to deliver email, when I can already get my corporate email via ActiveSync and still provide some level of corporate security to (at least) iOS devices, and I would assume Android as well.<br><br>Desparation RIM...pure desparation.<br><br>This shows that you have still failed entirely at innovation, and instead want to re-up the corporate world into an expensive licensed service on our devices that, quite frankly, we're happy are not chained to RIM in any way.<br><br>RIM is dead. They just haven't stopped moving.
    • Hmmm...

      @samalie Maybe RIM never thought that smartphones would be popular with consumers and the effort in the consumer space was a quick "slap on" project. They made and will continue to make money on the consumer space, but from day one, the only thing they actually know well is business infrastructure. They aren't dumb, they saw this coming from the first day they started selling the first BlackBerry Pearl years ago. They knew they just got a head start because of lack of true competition for the consumer market. Now they are settling in to their true plan from when they started the company and as a bonus, they also have income coming from consumers. Enterprise service is their thing, hardware never was first. When they die (everything must eventually come to an end) it will be because of their enterprise service not being desirable.
      Then again, maybe I'm just giving them to much credit ahahhaha
    • &quot;Desparation&quot; comments

      First, spell "desperation" correctly (does your iPhone not have an app for that?); second, fact is that your "some level of security" is a weak option for real security; third, businesses have asked for the option and RIM responded appropriately - where's the issue with that unless you are a petty ifan boy? The companies are happy, the employees will have more options and RIM will now need to ensure that their phones can compete with the best from Apple and Android. Sounds like a good deal all around.

      RIM is not dead anymore than Nokia is dead; just in transition the way Apple was about a dozen or so years ago. OK? Now go fondle your iPhone:)
      • RE: BlackBerry BES goes cross-platform, lets IT manage iPhone, iPad, and Android

        Funny post, but typical.
        Playing the spell check card? Really?
        Ending on name calling? Seriously?
        You just assumed he owns an iPhone because he pointed out some uncomfortable truths about RIM?
        RIM stock has taken a nose dive of epic proportions while The other two platforms are thriving.
        RIM just laid off 2000 employees.
        RIM is still running with two clueless CEO's, despite cries from shareholders to cut that number to just one.
        But just keep looking through those rose colored RIM glasses and everything will be alright.

        Did I spell everything correctly?
      • RE: BlackBerry BES goes cross-platform, lets IT manage iPhone, iPad, and Android

        Put down the BlackBerry and no one will get hurt = )
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  • RE: BlackBerry BES goes cross-platform, lets IT manage iPhone, iPad, and Android

    I wouldn't say that RIM makes crap phones. The force of RIM has always been in their BES setup. They may just be seeing the writing on the wall and start transforming their busines from hardware maker to service provider.
  • Skeptical

    The intent is good...and the deploy may end up being useful for environments with a major BES in place already. However, the limitations to non-Blackberry devices will still keep RIM 'behind' the game.

    Users today don't just want access to email. They want access to all internal resources with whatever device they choose...period. Finding solutions to facilitate that is becoming a key deliverable for many IT professionals.

    Ok, so we'll be able to admin multiple devices via one huge/complex BES interface. But you can only browse to that vital business-critical internal site with your Blackberry...not your iPhone/Android device/etc...hmm...not gonna play well with the kids.
  • RE: BlackBerry BES goes cross-platform, lets IT manage iPhone, iPad, and Android

    I actually didn't know that 'blackberry' was a platform - I just paired it with the actual phone. I'm not even sure who develops it, but I'm interested in integrating my site with mobile devices, maybe you guys could check it out sometime! Dustin, <a href="">Meat Slicer</a>