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November 30, 2011

BlackBerry Mobile Fusion UK launch details revealed

RIM has revealed what UK customers can expect from its new BlackBerry Mobile Fusion mobile device management platform

By Allan Swann

Research in Motion (RIM) announced yesterday that they were moving to open up some of its back end systems to its competitors through BlackBerry Mobile Fusion. We spoke to Tim Hodkinson, director of EMEA enterprise marketing at RIM about the company’s planned UK rollout.

RIM’s purchase of German Mobile Device Management (MDM) company Ubitexx in May led to the building of Mobile Fusion (BMF), a web based management tool which will allow IT to control Apple iOS and Android devices on a unified platform (see our summary here).

RIM Mobile Fusion administrator console
The Administrator console on BlackBerry Mobile Fusion

Ubitexx was already in the process of testing its software before BlackBerry’s acquisition in May. BlackBerry then tweaked and added its customers to the open Beta testing, which is ongoing. A closed Beta will then take place in January before the formal launch in March.

At this stage it’s only the largest select customers, who are already using the company’s proprietary BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES). Hodkinson said the beta has not worked with new partners as of yet. So far the feedback has been very positive, and they are seeing a lot of interest from companies looking to join the closed Beta, he said.

He would not detail the numbers or names of companies involved. "We’re not ready to reveal that information yet. Earlier next year we will be releasing some of the numbers," he said.

Pricing has not been released yet either, but he did confirm that BMF costs would be ‘comparable’ to current BES pricing structures.

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"It’s certainly going to be competitively priced. Existing mobile device management customers will see very common license based pricing to what they’re used to. We will also be taking account of the competitive situation when we come to launch in March. We are definitely looking at a very price competitive solution here," he said.

BlackBerry Mobile Fusion
Enterprise application management on BlackBerry Mobile Fusion

"We’ve also been looking at administrative running costs. Customers have been telling us that they want one single user experience to manage many mobile devices – be it our tablets, or smartphones on any other operating system. We’re listening," Hodkinson added.

International RIM Vice President Alan Panezic announced that subscribers to BMF would receive a free 16GB PlayBook, and any new customers would receive US$400 off a BES server installation. Mr Hodkinson confirmed that this offer will not be available to UK customers, but that RIM UK is in the process of putting together similar bundles and packages.

Despite other media reports to the contrary, BlackBerry Mobile Fusion will not be a new standalone system to replace BlackBerry Enterprise Server. The two systems are interoperable and entwined and will remain a part of the company’s portfolio for the foreseeable future.

The company has renewed its commitment to the government sector, and says that the interest in tablet based computing has been a part of discussion. However, security issues remain and the Communications-Electronics Security Group (CESG) within the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) still have too many security concerns surrounding consumerisation and tablet devices.

"There are no CESG specifications for tablets yet," he said.

RIM has been seeing plenty of interest in the PlayBook from sectors such as ‘on-the-go’ workers in the healthcare and social services.

The BlackBerry Playbook OS 2.0 update, expected in February 2012, means the PlayBook will finally will be able to operate calendars and push email within the BES and BMF systems – without an external BlackBerry dongle.

There may be an opening for RIM in the Government sector if it produces the same ‘end-to-end’ security that has seen its classic BlackBerry handsets enjoy such success in public sector communications internationally.

When asked if RIMs BMF is a late addition to a crowded market, especially with offerings from large rivals such as Sybase, Hodkinson is optimistic.

"We have actually been in the MDM space a long time, just not multi-platform. It’s still a very young market really. There are a lot of players in there. We are seeing a phenomenal level of growth and interest from customers," he said.

"We feel we’ve got a very unique perspective on it given the very high degree of policy control and remote management we provide on our own smartphone devices. And we want to bring that to not only our PlayBook, but to all the other platforms out there."

He also gave CBR an insight into what can be expected from the company’s hardware division in the new year.

As RIM’s share price had been falling after a rough year, the announcement saw the company’s share price jolt up US$1 to $US17.40. It is worth remembering however that its share price in 2008 was US$144.56.


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