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Summary:

If you can’t beat iOS and Android devices in the market, you might as well secure them. That seems to be the stance of RIM, which is launching a device-management and security service for IT departments called Mobile Fusion that builds off its BlackBerry Enterprise Servers.

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If you can’t beat iOS and Android devices in the market, you might as well secure them. That seems to be the stance of Research In Motion, which is launching a device-management and security service for IT departments called BlackBerry Mobile Fusion that builds off its BlackBerry Enterprise Servers.

The move is a big step for RIM, bringing its strengths in corporate security to rival platforms through one product that can serve BlackBerry devices as well as smartphones and tablets running on operating systems from Apple and Google. It’s an important bid to remain relevant in a bring-your-own-device world in which many employees are coming to their IT departments with devices that are not BlackBerrys.

This allows RIM to still utilize its BlackBerry Enterprise Servers to help IT managers oversee their diverse fleet of devices. But it also seems to be a recognition that RIM, which used to have a lock on enterprise mobility, can’t assume that its devices dominate in business anymore. BlackBerry Fusion probably won’t help RIM sell more BlackBerry devices, but it may keep RIM and its servers relevant inside IT departments. RIM said more than 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies deploy BlackBerry devices today.

BlackBerry Mobile Fusion, which will become available in the first quarter of 2012 for an undisclosed price, will allow IT leaders to manage their device fleet from one web console. It will augment the core security features of each platform and will offer a number of features already available to BlackBerry devices. From the press release, features include:

  • Asset management
  • Configuration management
  • Security and policy definition and management
  • Secure and protect lost or stolen devices (remote lock, wipe)
  • User- and group-based administration
  • Multiple device per user capable
  • Application and software management
  • Connectivity management (Wi-Fi, VPN, certificate)
  • High scalability
RIM said it will also introduce a new self-service functionality for employees to secure lost or stolen BlackBerry smartphones and tablets. The company is now accepting customers into a closed beta program starting in January, with general availability to follow in March.

This pits RIM against other device-management providers such as Good Technology, which has also enjoyed a lift from bring-your-own-device policies. And it builds off the May acquisition of Ubitexx, which at the time RIM said would pave the way for a multiplatform enterprise solution.

RIM is obviously still going to compete hard to sell smartphones and tablets. And it may see a turnaround if it can start cranking out new smartphones on its new BBX platform, which will replace BlackBerry 7. The move to open up and manage other devices is a logical one at this point for RIM, which can trade on its reputation for mobility security. But it seems like RIM would not be as eager to try this move if it was seeing the same kind of dominance it used to have in the enterprise. If RIM can’t get its device sales going, this might be the consolation prize for the company: becoming a device manager, not a device seller for IT departments.

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