Research in Motion (RIM) is losing its grip on the world’s businesses, but it won’t go down without a fight.
On Tuesday, the Canadian mobile device maker announced that in March of next year, it will release a software tool designed to manage not only its own BlackBerry phones, but also Apple iPhones and Google Android devices. The tool is known as BlackBerry Mobile Fusion, and it’s currently under beta test.
Alan Panezic, RIM’s vice president of enterprise product management and marketing, calls Fusion an “end-to-end enterprise solution, from a trusted vendor with a proven track record.” The tool, he tells Wired, lets IT departments oversee both company-owned and employee-owned mobile devices within their organizations. The tool is based on technology from Ubitexx — a German mobile device management platform RIM snatched up in May — but he says RIM has taken the Ubitexx tech “to the next level.”
In short, RIM wants to provide a way of dealing with the tidal wave of consumer devices crashing into the workplace and causing all sorts of problems for IT managers. The company says that Fusion will focus on security, asset and configuration management, letting managers remotely reset passwords, block particular applications, and lock devices.
Microsoft, Good Technology, Sybase, and MobileIron already provide software that operates along these same lines, and Google has taken this sort thing into the proverbial cloud, offering its management tool from the web.
The competitive advantage for RIM is that — despite a declining share in the consumer market and some recent high-profile BlackBerry service outages — the company still has a big footprint in the enterprise market. A October study from the Enterprise Management Associates found that 52 percent of organizations of more than 10,000 employees deploy BlackBerries as their primary device, compared to 20 and 17 percent for Android and Apple devices, respectively.
But these figures plummet when you look at devices used by smaller companies, and the question now is whether Mobile Fusion’s release is too late to the party. For organizations with less than 500 employees — outfits with more nimble IT departments that may be a bellwether for the market as a whole — Android (43 percent) tops Apple (27) and trounces RIM (16), which finds itself just above Windows Mobile devices (11).
Mobile Fusion is now being beta tested with a small number of enterprise customers. RIM is accepting customer nominations for a wider beta program that begins in January.