RIM's dual challenge: Build quality smartphones while boosting management software

BlackBerry 10 devices, delayed until 2013, will build on Mobile Fusion for managing devices, RIM exec says

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Devenyi arrived at RIM, based in Waterloo, Ontario, in 2005 and has major responsibility for research and development for RIM's enterprise software portfolio, including BES and other capabilities. He conceded that RIM could better publicize to its enterprise customers some of those capabilities, such as BlackBerry Mobile Fusion and BlackBerry Balance.

Blackberry Mobile Fusion, device management software that RIM introduced last November, was expanded in April to help IT shops provide the security used in BlackBerry devices to iOS and Android tablets and smartphones, Devenyi said.

RIM always offered 256-bit encryption for BlackBerry devices. With Mobile Fusion, the difference is that the end-to-end encrypted data wraps the Microsoft Active Sync protocol instead of RIM's proprietary protocol, Devenyi explained.

Also, the RIM-secured ActiveSync data is optional to IT shops. "Before, IT had to connect to BES, so this enables a whole array of [bring-your-own] devices," he explained. "We had to make sure we opened up the opportunity to BYOD to connect devices of any type to corporate data with any level of security constraints -- whether this includes Fusion or is less strict and less secure."

Devenyi said Fusion has attracted a "tremendous amount of interest ... a number of companies are actively using it" and giving RIM feedback on ways to improve Fusion to "make sure it's the leading mobile device management solution out there."

One future direction for security on BlackBerry devices will be how RIM secures data on consumer devices, so that corporate data is separated from personal data. RIM calls its approach "seamless partitioning" with the name BlackBerry Balance, which is available today on BlackBerry 7 and PlayBook devices and will be enhanced with BlackBerry 10.

The principal value of BlackBerry Balance is that users won't be allowed to do certain things with corporate data when using the personal capabilities inside a smartphone or tablet.

"If I have got an enterprise app on my smartphone, IT can wipe everything the enterprise knows about away ... The data's secured and could never be transmitted out on the non-enterprise side. That means you could never cut and paste enterprise email into non-enterprise email, for example," Devenyi explained.

Also, after listening to customers, RIM is planning to bring Mobile Fusion capabilities to the cloud, so that corporate customers can manage a variety of smartphone and tablet OSes without the need for servers on their premises, Devenyi said.

"Mobile Fusion is a direct realization that there will be heterogeneous devices that need to be managed. We are committed to extending it to more devices and to make it the best. Our customers are relying on that. On top of that, we must build devices that appeal to everybody ... and that's what BlackBerry 10 is about."

RIM is holding its annual shareholders meeting on July 10. It will be cast on the Web.

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 email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

See more by Matt Hamblen on Computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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