Research in Motion is looking to drum-up interest in its upcoming BlackBerry 10 platform by focusing on the customers that helped make the company's fortunes in the first place -- enterprise IT departments.
On January 23, RIM formally released BlackBerry Enterprise Server 10 (BES 10), the company’s up-to-date, back-end software for controlling and managing devices on the corporate network. The release sets the stage for the BlackBerry 10 platform, which the Canadian company plans to unveil on January 30. The release of the new BlackBerry smartphones and BES 10 are seen as key to helping the company revive its position in the business market, where it faces competition ranging from Apple’s iPhone and iOS to Google’s Android.
For businesses and IT shops, BES 10 is the real key to RIM’s strategy. The BlackBerry is trying to answer the challenges companies face in their mobile strategies, namely mobile device management (MDM)
, the desire for employees to use their own smartphones and tablets for work, and how best to protect data once it leaves the security of datacenter.
These issues are at the heart of what IT managers have to deal with now that mobility has become so important to businesses and employees. BYOD policies now allow the workers to dictate what types of smartphone or tablet they want to use, and IT is beginning to focus more on protecting the data through MDM rather than concerning itself about the myriad devices coming into the network.
The issue for IT departments is whether BES 10 is worth investing in or whether there’s a better set of management tools out there. Some organizations, such as the University of Massachusetts, which Enterprise Conversation profiled in December, have rid themselves of the older BES systems and are searching for a new MDM system.
However, not everyone is in agreement that BES 10 is essential to either RIM or IT managers.
Phillip Redman, an analyst with Gartner who blogged about BES 10 and the challenges facing RIM, believes that it will be the BlackBerry 10 operating system, not the new back-end services, that will make or break the company. In his view, Redman would like to see RIM give the services part away as a value-added incentive to buy more devices, since many third-party providers already offer comprehensive MDM services.
"A lot of managed services already do this, and you can outsource email and the management and run the BlackBerry on one of those integrated platforms," Redman told me in a telephone interview.
In his view, the one real interesting feature of BES 10 is BlackBerry Balance, which can help separate corporate from personal data, which is helpful especially where BYOD policies are in effect.
Still, RIM will try and pull in all different types of users.
Instead of taking iOS and Android head-on, RIM has decided to coopt the two other operating systems. BES 10 offers ways to manage BlackBerry, iOS, and Android, giving IT managers a one-stop MDM shop with a single view of these different devices. This single-pane view gives the IT manager the ability to remotely wipe devices, push over-the-air updates, and lock devices if they are lost or stolen.
There’s also support for Microsoft ActiveSync. The issue is whether RIM will charge companies for the ability to manage iOS and Android and whether enterprises will be willing to pay, especially if they are moving totally away from the BlackBerry platform.
In a December 20 report, Canaccord Genuity analysts predicted that companies will adopt BES 10, but at a slower rate:
Given BlackBerry 10 requires an additional virtualized server software instance for BES compatibility and thus changes to the installed software base for RIM’s enterprise customers, we believe enterprise customer upgrades to BlackBerry 10 may be slower than prior upgrades and may force CIOs to make decisions on future enterprise mobility investments that may lead to increased iOS/Android adoption rather than BlackBerry 10 upgrades.
When it comes to MDM, what do you need to run your mobile devices? What’s the best way to take charge of both the data and the devices? Will BES 10 offer enough for you to consider it as a part of your company's MDM strategy?