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RIM bundles management tools with Office 365

The Canadian smartphone maker has launched its business tie-in with Microsoft's Office 365 productivity suite, allowing subscribers to access sync and security features at no extra cost
Written by Ben Woods, Contributor

Research in Motion is giving enterprise customers the option to manage a fleet of BlackBerry smartphones using tools such as BlackBerry Balance and remote security features as part of bundled Office 365 subscriptions.

The free suite of cloud tools, previously available as a public beta, is aimed at SME and enterprise subscribers to Office 365, and users of Microsoft's standalone Exchange Online product, RIM said.

"This new cloud-based option allows customers to cost-effectively support mobility across their organisations and easily manage and secure their BlackBerry deployments," said Alan Panezic, Vice President, Enterprise Product Management and Marketing at Research In Motion. "We continue to build upon the end-to-end BlackBerry solution for our business and government customers with both on-premise and cloud-based solutions."

The agreement will allow subscribers to access key BlackBerry platform management features, such as BlackBerry Balance — which keeps work and personal content separate — and wireless syncing of Microsoft Exchange Online mail, calendar and organiser data.

In addition to providing IT admins with a web-based control panel to manage and secure BlackBerry smartphones remotely, the service also offers users self-service access to options such as as resetting a password and remotely locking or wiping a lost device.

RIM said the service is already live in more than 50 countries and will work with handsets on a business or consumer tariff.

Although RIM has traditionally enjoyed strong support from the enterprise market, its reputation took a hit in October 2011 as a result of a network outage that prevented emails from being delivered. It also came under pressure from various countries, including India and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), to provide decryption keys for communications sent across networks in those countries.

In December 2011, figures from a survey conducted by mobile security provider Check Point Software showed that iOS usage in business surpassed BlackBerry for the first time.

In January, RIM co-chiefs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis stepped down, handing the reigns to Thorsten Heins. In his first shareholder briefing as chief executive, Heins said that BlackBerry needs to focus on the consumer market, rather than traditional enterprise buyers. 

Office 365 is Microsoft's suite of online collaboration tools launched in 2011 that provide remote access to the office productivity tools from any web-connected computer or mobile device.

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