RIM lets BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10 out of the gate early, ready for BlackBerry 10 phones

RIM has released BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10 software, which allows businesses to manage a fleet of BlackBerry 10, iOS, or Android devices, in anticipation of the launch of its first BlackBerry 10 handsets at the end of January.
Written by Ben Woods, Contributor

BlackBerry-maker Research in Motion (RIM) has released a new version of its mobile device management software, BlackBerry Enterprise Service (BES).

The software, available to download from today, is designed to manage devices running BlackBerry 10, as well as rival devices running iOS or Android operating systems. The release will also play a key role in the potential success of RIM's forthcoming BlackBerry 10 handsets.

BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10 "supports our existing line of devices, BlackBerry PlayBook tablets, and soon to be released BlackBerry 10 smartphones," Pete Devenyi, senior vice president of enterprise software at RIM, told ZDNet.

In addition to bringing device and application management capabilities to the BlackBerry 10 handsets, the release of BES 10 also marks the retirement of RIM's standalone mobile device management product and brand, Mobile Fusion. In future, Mobile Fusion functionality will be a part of BlackBerry Enterprise Service, available to BES customers.

"We're retiring the BlackBerry Mobile Fusion name, recognising that BlackBerry Enterprise Server has been synonymous with mobile device management (MDM) and high security for years. It's a brand that is recognised across the corporate and government community," Devenyi added.

Devenyi also cleared up any confusion left around the management of new and older-generation BlackBerry devices, as well as third-party handsets: at launch, BES can also be used to manage non-BlackBerry 10 devices, provided BES is installed on a separate logical server. After this, old and new devices, as well as PlayBooks, iOS handsets, and Android devices can all be managed from one central console. In the future, RIM will allow customers to deploy BES 10 onto the same logical server, Devenyi confirmed.

One of the key features of BlackBerry Enterprise Service is BlackBerry Balance, which RIM has been working on in one form or another since its release in 2011.

BlackBerry Balance allows IT departments to manage employees' devices without affecting their personal content, and without allowing potentially sensitive work information to be accidentally compromised.

"Balance on BlackBerry B10 is a very significant evolution of the technology, and has now been baked into the operating system at its very core, at a level we've never done before," Devenyi said. "Now, we have two completely separate domains on the device."

Balance is activated when a device is enrolled into BES, automatically creating a "work" domain on the device. As well as protecting data on the device and allowing policies to be applied to a handset without affecting a users' data, Balance also manages the way in which apps can access data, or indeed, which apps can be installed on the "work" side of the handset.

For example, while "personal" apps can be used from the "work" interface, a user couldn't copy and paste information from a work email into the Facebook app.

While RIM's challenges in the enterprise market are not as acute as in the consumer space, it has undoubtedly come under pressure from other rival platforms such as Android and iOS in its core business. However, Devenyi said that Balance makes a difference for BlackBerry shops considering the change to a new platform.

"One truly differentiated feature of BlackBerry 10 from a work perspective is the unique capabilities we bring to market with BlackBerry Balance, and that sells customers every time, because it resonates with them and solves a huge problem for them in terms of how can they truly manage and control BYOD devices coming into the enterprise," Devenyi said.

"BES 10 is all about managing a heterogeneous set of devices as well as we can," he added.

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