updated 08:35 am EST, Tue November 29, 2011
RIM cedes as Mobile Fusion supports non-BlackBerry
RIM bowed to the realities of the market Tuesday by starting up a private beta of BlackBerry Mobile Fusion. The company's first device management tool lets IT admins remotely track and control phones, including remote wipes, locks, and regular configurations. The platform is RIM's first that isn't exclusive to he BlackBery: it can control Android and iOS devices, including iPhones and iPads.
The main advantage BlackBerry devices have over competition is support for BlackBerry Enterprise Server. BlackBerry phone and PlayBook owners can get the option to "self-service" a phone and lock it down as soon as it's lost rather than waiting for an IT manager to do it. Policies on Android and iOS depend on their individual feature support.
Current testing is focused on a handful of corporate customers. Customers can ask to be picked for a wider but still closed beta in January. Mobile Fusion is expected to go public in late March.
The support for other platforms is a rare gesture from RIM and points to a rare concession to a changing market. Once virtually the only option in the corporate world, the BlackBerry is now in a close fight with the iPhone for corporate acceptance, with Android small but growing. Attempts to pitch the BlackBerry PlayBook as a corporate tablet have also largely struggled, as 92 percent of the Fortune 500 is testing or using the iPad while just a small number have committed to trying PlayBooks.
RIM touts that 90 percent of the Fortune 500 carries BlackBerry devices, but it admitted that BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and, indirectly, iOS-first strategies were changing the "diversity" of the workplace.