Smartphones

BlackBerry BES welcomes iPhone, iPad, and Android into the fold

CIOs love BlackBerry Enterprise Server for the security and manageability that it brings to BlackBerry devices. RIM has announced plans to allow BES to manage iOS and Android devices as well.

The biggest pitch RIM makes for businesses to adopt BlackBerry devices is that they are a lot more secure and easier for IT to manage, which -- more than the devices themselves -- is made possible by the BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) backend. RIM appears to have accepted that it's living in a pluralistic mobile world and that it can no longer use BES to force companies to only support BlackBerry devices because on Monday at BlackBerry World 2011 RIM announced plans for a multiplatform upgrade to BES that will allow it to also support and manage iPhone, iPad, and Android smartphones and tablets.

Photo credit: Jason Hiner

At the opening press conference of BlackBerry World 2011 in Orlando, RIM admitted that CIOs have been pressuring the company to allow BES to iOS and Android devices in addition to BlackBerry devices.

In order to make this happen quickly, RIM announced that it is acquiring ubitexx, which makes a cross-platform device management solution that not only support iOS and Android, but also Microsoft and Nokia devices. The upgraded version of BES will be released "later this year."

RIM was careful to note: "Overall, as is largely understood in the enterprise market today, organizations can expect a range of security, manageability and controls depending on different device platform capabilities, with some devices further limited by the design of their operating system."

In other words, not all of the devices have a great security model for how they handle data, encryption, remote administration, etc. That's where RIM will still pitch the BlackBerry as the most secure and IT-controllable device, while also offering some backend management for other devices, especially the ones users themselves are bringing into the organization.

The other big update to BES that RIM announced was a new and improved Web console for IT administrators. Here's RIM's description (from the official press release):

The single web-based console is being designed to provide IT administrators with a simple and efficient way to distribute software and manage policies, inventory, security and services for BlackBerry devices, as well as other mobile devices. IT administrators will be able to manage devices over-the-air, including activating devices, distributing software and applications, locking or wiping devices, enforcing and resetting device passwords, setting IT policies, and managing optional mobile applications for end users. Certain features are expected to remain exclusive to BlackBerry devices because such capabilities are built into the design of a device's operating system. Examples include RIM's industry-leading push technology, network and data usage efficiency, behind-the-firewall access to enterprise applications and systems, and many of the over 550 IT policies available through BlackBerry Enterprise Server.

Bottom line

Overall, it's hard to see the cross-platform play as anything but a wise move for RIM. It allows the company to play to its strengths and continue to sell its CIO-favorite BES platform to high-security environments like governments and financial services companies that no longer want or need an all-BlackBerry solution. And, for the companies that implement BES as a cross-platform solution, it still allows RIM to pitch BlackBerry devices as an upsell for security and manageability.

However, the most important factor may be RIM acknowledging that it's going to have to survive in a mobile world where it's no longer the king of the hill -- even in the enterprise. It's also good to see RIM beefing up and putting the spotlight on BES, which could turn out to be the company's more valuable asset in the long run than BlackBerry devices, which are in the midst of a difficult and uncertain platform transition as well as intense competition from Apple, Google, and Microsoft.

This article was originally published on ZDNet.

About

Jason Hiner is the Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He is an award-winning journalist who writes about the people, products, and ideas that are revolutionizing the ways we live and work in the 21st century.

20 comments
nwallette
nwallette

This is one of my three dreaded "IE-only" web-apps. Speaking of which, why do TR's comment links no longer work in Chrome?

helinutgman
helinutgman

I wonder if they will use software to allow other devices to do PIN messages and BB Messenger?

brianalls
brianalls

If they had an app that would run securely on these platforms and performs all the functions of a physical blackerry connecting back to BES, that would be a great solution. That way you wouldn't have to care if the device is managed, just that your BB app is secure. They would also be able to keep their subscribers that way. They could require a PW for the app. They could allow or disallow copy and paste, or maybe just paste only in their app. That would be a win-win.

CListo
CListo

that now companies will use MESS...BES for managing their Iphones and Androids.. I am sure that the BES version thet could do this is a EXPENSIVE one

5haggi
5haggi

... as a useful migration tool for many large Enterprises to move away from RIM. Probably not their intention, but thanks guys! :-)

bpinet
bpinet

If this will be available on the express free version as well.

ShinobiX
ShinobiX

I think it's a great move on RIM. A multiplatform BES is a win win! We all have BB devices in our organization and we were looking to venture into different devices using third party software but this might change things a bit. Now the question is, what's the pitch for existing organizations using BES?

leader716
leader716

I am interested to see how this works.

JCitizen
JCitizen

but, all it would take is Apple or some FOSS community to come up with their own management solution, and there would be RIM in the same situation once again. Maybe they can control the damage of lost market share this way.

Litehouse
Litehouse

It's an interesting move. It sounds good for them, but it might hasten the decline of their hardware market-share. I would not be surprised to learn that the only thing preventing many companies from switching to more popular platforms like iPhone/Android is the difficulty in centralized management. This plan frees those companies to switching away.

ehagihara
ehagihara

I've had this same thought for a while. RIM integrated Blackberry Connect for certain Nokia phone models a few years ago. I always thought they'd permeate the market that way, emphasizing their service more than the devices they were on.

rhenderson
rhenderson

Are there plans to include this on the Express version.

ShaunnyBwoy
ShaunnyBwoy

I think this is a great idea for RIM, but I think they were under pressure due to the competition hardware being somewhat superior to their hardware. Also with RIM losing ground on the tablet front, this move would solidify their position on the marketing front. I can hardly see any other company, other than Google making a play for management. RIM have been doing this for years, have the infrastructure already in place, and have a wide range of clients who would hesitate (I sure would!) to migrate over to any other company for management solutions. Can you imagine Apple trying to set up their own management solutions? They already have a hard time fixing the calendar problems on their own phones, and with Apple's reputation, they wouldn't settle for management... they'd rather take ownership! I think this is a wise move for RIM, and can only see them growing stronger in the business world should they pull this off without a meltdown!

ehagihara
ehagihara

At my last company, I had a sales rep that actually offered to buy me an iphone if I'd support it. Oh, that really blew having to turn that down.. My current company's a blackberry shop as well, but I'm being told to look at expanding device support for our roadmaps. It's hard to argue when the upper management folk start showing up with iphones/ipads and want support for them. Centralized management for all this stuff sure would be nice.

jaythom1969
jaythom1969

"The single web-based console is being designed to provide IT administrators with a simple and efficient way to distribute software and manage policies, inventory, security and services for BlackBerry devices, as well as other mobile devices. IT administrators will be able to manage devices over-the-air, including activating devices, distributing software and applications, locking or wiping devices, enforcing and resetting device passwords, setting IT policies, and managing optional mobile applications for end users". -Not my idea of privacy- Jay

Stalemate
Stalemate

Yes. From the press release linked in the article: "The solution will make available the market-leading management, security and controls of BlackBerry?? Enterprise Server and BlackBerry?? Enterprise Server Express for BlackBerry?? devices plus, through RIM???s pending acquisition of ubitexx (creator of the ubi-Suite device management solution), the solution is expected to incorporate secure device management for Android and iOS based devices and tablets, all managed from a single web-based console."

JCitizen
JCitizen

good insight, and I should have considered that. It does seem like a bold move, but it may keep them in the game until they improve the hardware. Maybe they can get with Intel on the new 3D core processor chip. I don't mean for 3D video, I mean the processor uses three dimensional processing in a chip that has layered circuitry, perhaps you've heard of it already. They say it will revolutionize mobile technology.

q
q

It is understood, that the BES server is owned by a corporation, and the data on it, and handled by it, is corporate data - there should be no privacy assumed between the end users and the IT department. I think that this adds an excellent layer of security for the people that want to use non-BB devices. Q