Mobile workers whose organizations subscribe to Microsoft Corp.'s cloud-based Office 365 service can now access some of the messaging applications through Research In Motion's BlackBerry smart phones.
RIM said Monday that BlackBerry Business Cloud Services for Office 365 is now in production after a four-month test. BCS synchronizes BlackBerry handsets wirelessly with the data in hosted versions of Microsoft Exchange Online email, calendar and organizer.
It essence, it's the cloud counterpart to RIM's BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express for on-premise versions of Microsoft Exchange and Lotus Domino.
To help IT managers, Business Cloud Services also integrates with the Office 365 Administrative Portal for management, which includes allowing users the ability to reset a password or remotely lock or wipe a device in case of loss or theft.
Before BCS, BlackBerrys could only connect to Office 365 through BlackBerry Internet Service -- and only for email.
The tie-in lets Microsoft tout Office 365 can now be used on a platform that business users associate with security.
"I'm surprised it's taken so long," Nigel Wallis, research director for application solutions at IDC Canada, said of the release, because Office 365 launched just over two years ago.
On the other hand, if RIM is going to handle a Microsoft service that promises access round the clock, it had better deliver -- and lately RIM has been "overpromising" there, Wallis said, referring to last year's record four-day service problems. He guesses ironing out that is one reason why the deal took so long.
Pete Devenyi, RIM's senior vice-president of enterprise software said his company recognized that other handsets could link to Office 365 through Microsoft ActiveSync, but it wanted to provide richer management capabilities than Microsoft's Business Productivity Online Services (BPOS).
Business Cloud Services for Office 365 does that
Within the Office 365 Administrative Portal, there is an option for enabling a BlackBerry device. It automatically pulls the Office 365 user information into Business Cloud Services (once the required legal notices have been checked off). The administrator then has a link to BCS for creating users and groups.
Devenyi cautioned that BCS doesn't run behind a corporate firewall, and therefore can't give secure access to business applications. If you want that, turn to the full Office suite with BlackBerry Enterprise Server.
The new RIM service is free to medium and enterprise subscribers of the Office 365 suite, or standalone Exchange Online. It works with BlackBerrys on business or consumer data plans and is available in over 50 countries.
The partner that gets the best advantage in the pact is Microsoft, Wallis said, which is trying to fend off the popularity of Google Docs. One of the advantages of a pact with BlackBerry it can offer a secure mobile solution.
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