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

Matt Hamblen | July 6, 2012
BlackBerry 10 smartphones, delayed until early 2013, will have the "best browsers in the industry" and will come in touchscreen-only models as well as those with traditional physical keyboards, a Research in Motion executive said Thursday.

RIM remains committed to BlackBerry 10, but Devenyi admitted that a variety of other strategies for growth are being investigated. "A number of strategic opportunities are being looked into, and we will continue to do that, and yet our firm commitment is to drive forward with our next generation mobile computing platform, the nucleus of which is BlackBerry 10," he said.

He did clarify, however, that "we don't believe it's in RIM's best interest or that of the shareholders to be dependent on a third party OS." Some analysts have speculated that RIM might want to use the Windows Phone or Android OS on future BlackBerry smartphones.

Devenyi did not comment on other strategic options that have been raised, including the possible licensing of the BlackBerry OS to other smartphone manufacturers or licensing or selling the RIM network operations center and network to other smartphone makers to use to secure their smartphones.

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 encrypted data runs over Microsoft ActiveSync management software, and not over RIM's proprietary mobile device management software, Devenyi explained.

Also, the security over ActiveSync 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 will appear in BlackBerry 10.

The principal value of 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.


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