RIM Launches Mobile Fusion To Manage Blackberry, iOS, Android Devices

By consolidating the management of tablets and smartphones onto a single, Web-based console, BlackBerry Mobile Fusion is intended to arm IT managers with a one-stop-shop for monitoring, tracking, and securing these devices in the enterprise. The platform supports BlackBerry 7 and the upcoming BlackBerry 10 OS, BlackBerry PlayBook OS, Google’s Android, and Apple’s iOS.

RIM said the solution was designed in response to the influx of consumer-oriented devices being used in the corporate world, a pattern referred to as the bring-your-own-device or BYOD trend. It’s a move that can cut enterprise costs significantly and enable employees to work on-the-go, but can also introduce a new set of security and management concerns for IT.

[Related: RIM To Offer Developers BlackBerry 10 Prototype ]

"For businesses and government, managing a mix of mobile devices on any scale is chaotic. Organizations face pressure to allow employees to bring their own devices into the workplace, and they are looking to RIM as the global leader in the enterprise mobility space to solve that problem," said Alan Panezic, Vice President, Enterprise Product Management and Marketing at RIM, in a statement.

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BlackBerry Mobile Fusion, which leverages the security architecture of the BlackBerry Enterprise Server, can support multiple devices per user, and can manage up to 10,000 users at once. Features include security and policy definition management, user- and group-based administration, and application and software management.

The solution also includes BlackBerry Balance technology, which minimizes the risk of unauthorized users accessing corporate data if a device is lost or stolen. Enterprise data is hosted within its own encrypted perimeter, so specific login credentials are needed to connect to corporate networks.

Apart from easing the headaches of IT managers grappling with the BYOD trend, BlackBerry Mobile Fusion could signify a new and much-needed growth opportunity for the struggling RIM. The Waterloo, Ontario-based company announced weak fiscal fourth quarter earnings last week, with a net loss of $125 million.

RIM’s struggles stem primarily from rivals Apple and Google winning over more and more of its traditional enterprise subscriber base. The company said it shipped 11.1 million units of its BlackBerry smartphones last quarter, down a stark 21 percent compared to the 14.1 million it shipped in the previous quarter. A meager 500,000 of its BlackBerry PlayBook tablets were also shipped, the company said.

During the earnings call with analysts, CEO Thorsten Heins vowed to make substantial changes at RIM, both structurally and operationally. Among them was a reinforced focus on the company’s core strengths, including enterprise security. BlackBerry Mobile Fusion not only suggests RIM’s return to its security roots, but, through its support of Android and iOS, hints at an awareness on RIM’s part that it’s no longer the only player in the enterprise space.

But there’s a chance that awareness is simply too little, too late, speculated Steven Kantorowitz, President of CelPro Associates, a New York-based solution provider and RIM partner. BlackBerry Mobile Fusion will have to fight for market share against similar solutions from vendors including MobileIron and Good Technology, which are long-standing in the mobile device management space.

"This is a product RIM should have released and developed a long time ago. MobileIron and Good have gotten a foothold in many of the corporate accounts that Fusion would have been a no brainer," Kantorowitz told CRN.

That said, he continued, Mobile Fusion is an overall good move for RIM.

"Although RIM is late to the market again, they should make serious inroads into some core corporate accounts," Kantorowitz said. "This will be a great way for RIM to keep the BlackBerry Enterprise Server relevant in the coming years."

As a partner, he said CelPro is excited to see RIM forge ahead with its enterprise strategy, and to have a new "game changer" product to offer clients.

RIM said access licenses for the BlackBerry Mobile Fusion software start at $99 per user or $4 per user per month. A free 60-day trial of the platform is available on its Web site.