BlackBerry MDM Solution to Launch Next Year
A good play for RIM that builds on their core strengths in enterprise mobility. But they are going to need a lot more fuel to get their ship moving in the right direction.
Research in Motion (RIM) announced today that their multi-platform mobile device management (MDM) solution dubbed BlackBerry Mobile Fusion is expected to launch in March of next year. The system will support Apple iOS and Android-based devices as well as BlackBerry smartphones. The product is currently in early beta testing, with a closed beta program starting in January 2012.
This move was not at all unexpected, as the company disclosed their plan at BlackBerry World this past May, when they announced the acquisition of Munich-based MDM company ubitexx GmbH; it is this acquisition’s product that is being integrated with the BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES). Along with iOS and Android devices, Fusion will also provide management for BlackBerry PlayBook tablets.
With the move to corporate bring-your-own-device (BYOD) initiatives, mobile device management systems like those from like AirWatch, Sybase, MobileIron, and Zenprise have been a hot commodity, and RIM is looking to get in on the action. This is a smart move, as RIM essentially invented the idea of mobile device management with their BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES), and is now looking to expand that expertise to the other two most popular enterprise smartphone platforms.
In their Magic Quadrant Report for MDM Software, Gartner claims to have found over 60 different manufacturers offering products, so RIM will be going into a highly competitive market. Further, many of those products support the Symbian, Windows Mobile, and Windows Phone platforms as well as BlackBerry, Android, and iOS. While RIM can base their value proposition on their longstanding expertise in MDM, they will have to overcome the general market perception that they have one foot in the grave.
According to the press release, BlackBerry Fusion will provide the core MDM functions including:
* Asset management
* Configuration management
* Security and policy definition and management
* Ability to secure and protect lost or stolen devices (remote lock, wipe)
* User- and group-based administration
* Multiple device per user capability
* Application and software management
* Connectivity management (Wi-Fi, VPN, certificate)
* Centralized console
* High scalability (up to 10,000 devices per server)
As with other MDM solutions, the range of functionality will vary by operating system, given the differences in the APIs that are opened to developers.
When the idea was originally described to us, Fusion would act as a front end to two servers, one supporting BlackBerry devices (i.e. a BES) and the other supporting iOS and Android (i.e. ubitexx). The most common MDM functions would be accessed through Fusion, while more detailed functions would require the administrator to access the underlying server directly.
While RIM can potentially make a mark in the MDM space, Fusion alone will not be enough to offset RIM's bigger problem, which is its declining share of the smartphone market. Further, their next-generation smartphones based on the new BBX operating system likely won't hit the market until late next year, and in the meantime iOS and Android devices are flying off the shelves.
All in all, Fusion is a good play for RIM and builds on their core strengths in enterprise mobility, but they are going to need a lot more fuel to get their ship moving in the right direction.