Awhile back, RIM announced that they would be supporting Android and iOS devices in their enterprise management suite, and today they’re getting a little more specific with the details. The new management suite is called BlackBerry Mobile Fusion, and will support tablets and smartphones, including those running RIM’s new BBX platform based on the PlayBook operating system. All of the core enterprise mobility management stuff you’d expect is in there, like user and group administration, remote lock and wipe, policy definition and implementation, multiple devices per user, app rollouts, easy scalability, connectivity management, and asset overview. There’s even going to be a self-service portion similar to BlackBerry Protect, so end-users can handle a lot of their own problems, as well as BlackBerry Balance for RIM smartphones, so users can securely use their handset for work and play.
While a product like this screams admission that BlackBerry is losing its foothold in enterprise, at least RIM isn’t being stubborn and ignoring the fact, but rather rolling with the punches and adapting accordingly. My general impression has been that integrating the PlayBook with BES has posed enough of a problem as to slow the roll-out of features like stand-alone e-mail and contacts apps, so Mobile Fusion here must be a pretty significant overhaul of the existing BES product. Still, BES 5.0.3 will be rolled into Mobile Fusion, so there will be a lot of backwards compatibility available.
This isn’t the only front where RIM has been flirting with Android; the BlackBerry PlayBook will have an Android app player sometime in February, with developer testing currently underway. Many of the folks I had talked to at RIM about it were largely dismissive of the feature, though I guess I’d be a little bitter too. Mobile Fusion will be the first time iPhone and BlackBerry overlap in any real way, but overall, a cross-platform strategy has always been in the cards for RIM – just go back a few years and check out the BlackBerry Application Suite for Windows Mobile.
If you’d like to jump in and give it a shot, RIM is accepting applications for a closed beta starting in January, while full availability will be in March. More info over here, plus there’s going to be a webcast this afternoon for a deep dive.