RIM launches BlackBerry Mobile Fusion

Extends BlackBerry Enterprise Server support to Android and iOS smartphones and tablets

IT managers in business and government can consolidate management of BlackBerry, iOS and Android smartphones and tablets with the new Blackberry Mobile Fusion launched Tuesday.

Research in Motion described the next-generation Mobile Fusion software as "cost-efficient. " The mobile management offering is priced at $99 per user for client access licenses, or $4 per user per month.

RIM said that a 60-day free trial of Mobile Fusion can be ordered on its Web site. IT managers are facing a barrage of smartphones and tablets on various platforms that workers are using to do job tasks. Most mobile device management tools used to secure corporate data today don't run across multiple operating systems, analysts said.

Mobile Fusion can "manage a mixed environment of devices in the most secure, simple and cost-efficient manner possible," said Alan Panezic, RIM vice president of enterprise product management, in a statement.

RIM made a series of executive changes recently following a slowdown in rollouts of new BlackBerry smartphones and other problems. For instance, the company last week reported that fourth quarter 2011 revenue dropped by 25% over the previous year.

Mobile Fusion is RIM's way of recognizing competing OSs while shoring up support for its popular BlackBerry Enterprise Server that's long managed its BlackBerry devices, analysts said.

Mobile Fusion is "not so much about RIM directly staying afloat [amid customer defections and problems]," said Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates. "It's about leveraging the business investment in BlackBerry Enterprise Server."

Gold explained that many companies are looking to Microsoft's Exchange ActiveSync as their primary method of managing the surge of iOS and Android smartphones and tablets.

"RIM's leveraging of BES to manage other devices gives companies a reason to maintain their BES installations and puts less pressure on IT to disconnect the BES," Gold added. "Fusion is a smart move for RIM and allows them to leverage the installed base." Fusion will offer more BlackBerry-focused capabilities than iOS and Android features, which could make the RIM hardware more desirable, Gold added. Fusion integrates BES version 5.0.3 features such as 256-bit encryption and software installation for BlackBerry smartphones and PlayBook tablets, RIM said.

For iOS and Android, Fusion will offer many capabilities seen by analysts as slightly less robust than for BlackBerry devices, but still including remote lock and data wipe for lost or stolen devices and configuration and application management.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed . His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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