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BlackBerry maker RIM offers its software for Android, iOS users

by Phil Hornshaw

BlackBerry maker Research In Motion has allowed apps Google’s Android operating system to run on its BlackBerry Playbook tablet thanks to an emulator. Now it seems to want to return the favor by offering its software to Android and Apple’s iOS users.

According to a story from Ars Technica, RIM is offering its device management software to both its major competitors. The company made the announcement today that it would make the software available to Android and iPhone owners, which would allow users to manage those devices alongside BlackBerry devices using the software.

The new software is called BlackBerry Mobile Fusion and gives a lot of the same device management controls that BlackBerry customers enjoy (like remote phone locking and wiping and security features) to non-BlackBerry phones. It’s an acknowledgment on RIM’s part that it’s slowly losing its dominance in the field of business. While BlackBerry devices are still used heavily in enterprise, companies are also allowing employees to bring their own phones and use them.

BlackBerry Mobile Fusion allows RIM to continue to support its devices among businesses, even if its users also have other devices. RIM is aiming to become the “de facto platform” for device management among enterprise users, according to Alan Panezic, VP of enterprise product management at RIM. So while BlackBerry devices might be losing their market share, RIM doesn’t intend to be forgotten: it may just have to change the way it does things.

RIM has its work cut out for it, though. Its BlackBerry devices still curry a lot of favor among the government and businesses, but it’s losing traction to the widespread popularity of Android, and Apple’s iPad is popping up more and more in business settings. It probably didn’t help that BlackBerry devices suffered a worldwide outage in October. But the popularity BlackBerry does enjoy, as Ars Technica points out, largely comes from its management capabilities. Now Android users are going to have access to those same capabilities, which could help RIM maintain some popularity, especially if those capabilities become as popular on other devices as they have been on BlackBerrys.

On the other hand, if RIM gives up the things that make its handsets unique – by allowing millions upon millions of Android users to have those same capabilities without buying a BlackBerry – it could very well have a huge negative impact on the BlackBerry. We’ll have to wait and see if RIM’s gamble pays off, but in the meantime, Android users are going to have access to some potentially cool new software.

RIM says it’ll be releasing BlackBerry Mobile Fusion in the first quarter of 2012.