As more and more employees utilize new technologies such as the iPhone and Android phones, one of the greatest problems companies face is the possibility of security breaches. Since smartphones lack the built-in security features of older PDA’s, such as the BlackBerry, many companies are resistant to allowing their employees to employ their own phones to do company business, even though costs can be lowered and the requirements of operating two separate devices can lead to lost work time and confusion.
On November 29th, Research In Motion (RIM), the makers of the BlackBerry, announced a new product that may solve that problem: Mobile Fusion. Mobile Fusion is a device management software designed to allow employees to use whatever smartphone they prefer or already use, while providing the same level of corporate security already built into the BlackBerry. Controlled remotely by their IT staff, companies will be able to use the system to set passwords and permissions, secure documents and email, and to install or remove apps and software on devices using either the Apple or Android operating systems, allowing companies to control the flow of information on all such devices. They will even have the ability to lock or wipe devices if they’re lost or stolen.
In an interview with Reuters, Alan Panezic, RIM’s vice-president for enterprise product management, said that what “enterprise customers are looking for, and the opportunity for us, is to become the de facto platform.” The software will take advantage of the security capabilities provided by the core operating system. “We’re not going to hold that back in any way, shape or form.”
The servers running mobile fusion will be behind the same corporate firewall as Blackberry’s own enterprise servers (BES), provide the security and data protection that has long made BlackBerry the preferred device for mobile corporate communications. The software will also be added to RIM’s tablet product, PlayBook, when that device is updated in February. At present, RIM is not making information on pricing available, but has said it will be competitive with other such programs. The system is currently available only for Apple and Android products, though RIMhas said it will consider a Windows phone version if there is enough demand.
RIM has obviously been planning this move for a long time, and was part of their reason for acquiring Ubitexx, a device management company, last May. Industry analysts believe the move is a smart one, as it performs the task of giving corporations a reason not to shift from BES to other systems that better coordinate with smartphones, but doesn’t necessarily increase the sales of those phones, since the system will work with both BlackBerrys and employees personal phones.
The move also heads off potential competition from smaller companies such as Good Technology, MobileIron and BoxTone, which already offer device management and security for smartphones. There’s little doubt among industry analysts that RIM will have an immediate advantage in the market thanks to their brand familiarity and track record. As one industry analyst puts it, “This will definitely rattle some cages.”
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