BlackBerry maker, Research In Motion has announced new mobile management software that adds support for Apple and Android devices but analysts say time will tell if the company's new emphasis on bring-your-own-device (BYOD) will succeed.
RIM announced BlackBerry Enterprise Server 10 (BES 10) is available to download as of today. The product combines mobile device management (MDM), mobile application management and mobile security. Unlike previous versions, BES 10 enables BYOD with support for Android and iOS devices in addition to BlackBerry.
The decision to support non-BlackBerry devices "was really driven by our customers," RIM senior director of enterprise product management, Jeff Holleran, told Computerworld Australia.
Enterprise customers told RIM they were "really under pressure from our end users to start supporting additional devices."
RIM may also woo back some old customers with the new version, Holleran said. For example, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency moved from BlackBerry to iPhone last year, but the agency is now testing BlackBerry 10 and the BES 10 platform, he said.
While BYOD may be the new emphasis, BES 10 still does not support Windows Phone. "We're waiting for market demand in support of it," Holleran said. "We just haven't really seen it in our enterprise customer base at this point.
"If market relevance is there, we'd be happy to add [Windows Phone] to the product."
Another feature of BES 10 acknowledging the BYOD movement is BlackBerry Balance, which separates protected work apps and data from personal content users may store on BlackBerry devices.
The feature helps businesses manage a BYOD user who wants to use one device for both work and play, Holleran said. If the user ever leaves the organisation, only their work data will be deleted, he said.
Research In Motion has also changed its pricing structure with BES 10. "We have moved from a licensing model that included a server price to just a device licence model," Holleran said. Licences are US$99 per user in the US. RIM couldn't provide Australian pricing.
RIM will run a BES 10 promotion this year to encourage purchase of BlackBerry 10 devices. Existing BES customers can trade in old licences on a one-for-one basis for every user that upgrades their device to BlackBerry 10, Holleran said.
RIM is seeing much early customer interest in BES 10, said Holleran, adding that globally 1600 enterprise and government customers are registered for the company's BlackBerry 10 education program, BlackBerry Ready.
Supporting Android and iOS devices in BES 10 is "really a survival strategy" for RIM, Gartner analyst Ken Dulaney said in an interview. "Given the problems [BlackBerry] has had, customers have gone to other devices."
"The consumer mobile market ran away from BlackBerry a while ago so BES must manage multiple devices to remain relevant," said Telsyte analyst Rodney Gedda.
"There are a lot of companies vying for a piece of the MDM pie--with corporate and personal devices--and RIM has a lot of experience managing its own BlackBerry devices," he said.
"We're still in the early stages of MDM generally so if RIM branches out to non-BlackBerry devices and applications then there is no reason why that part of its business won't pay off. BYOD shows no sign of slowing so the more devices BES can manage the more appeal it will have with organisations looking to deploy a mobile management solution."
However, Gartner's Dulaney said it's unlikely RIM will win back customers who have already fled from BlackBerry.
"The only way they'll come back in is if they just use Exchange ActiveSync" to manage devices, Dulaney said. "If they've invested in MDM, they're probably not coming back."
While BES 10 may now support other devices, Dulaney said BES 10 has a "middle of the road" feature set that may only attract those organisations that want BlackBerry 10 handsets.
Other mobile management products in the market have more features, including support for Windows Phone and the ability to build an enterprise app store, the analyst said.
However, RIM has forced companies to buy BES 10 if they want to securely support BlackBerry 10 devices because the company has not allowed other MDM companies to support its new OS, he said.
"It all comes down to this: If you believe that BlackBerry 10 devices are compelling and you want to support them, then put in BES 10."
Before buying BES 10, organisations should remember that BlackBerry's future success depends on how well they do in the consumer space, Dulaney warned. "You may want to wait about six months to see how they perform."
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