Unpacking RIM's Mobile Fusion

By Dan Croft, CEO and Founder, Mission Critical Wireless — May 21, 2012

In April, Research In Motion (RIM) released its long anticipated Mobile Device Management (MDM) suite, BlackBerry Mobile Fusion, built to handle the demands of a range of smartphones – including BlackBerry’s primary competitors.
 
On the surface, BlackBerry Mobile Fusion appears to meet a critical need for enterprises struggling to manage their mobility demands, but is BlackBerry Mobile Fusion too little, too late for RIM? Or is it a solid solution that re-establishes RIM’s relevancy in today’s mobility marketplace?
 
The Basics of BlackBerry Mobile Fusion
 
The BlackBerry Mobile Fusion suite was launched in response to the rising BYOD (Bring-Your-Own-Device) trend, providing an all-in-one enterprise mobility tool capable of supporting a full range of device platforms that integrates nicely into existing BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) and BESx (Express) infrastructure.
 
While many people refer to BlackBerry Mobile Fusion as a single product, it is actually a combination of three new separate solutions that can be used in conjunction with BES, BESx to address a variety of MDM needs. 
 
The new products that make up BlackBerry Mobile Fusion include:
  • BlackBerry Device Service (BDS): For now, BDS allows enterprise IT groups to manage and secure BlackBerry PlayBook. However, once RIM launches its new generation of BlackBerry devices later this year, BlackBerry 10 (BB10), companies who want to support and secure these devices will be required to implement BDS
  • Universal Device Service (UDS): This software provides device management capabilities for Android and Apple iOS devices. This particular product most resembles a traditional MDM software solution, although specific features vary by provider
  • BlackBerry Mobile Fusion Studio (BMFS): BMFS is a web based management portal that consolidates mobile device data into a single interface, allowing system administrators to perform common tasks for BES, BESx, BDS and UDS
Although it is technically feasible to use BDS or UDS in isolation, the likelihood of a company deploying one or more of these components without a BES or BESx is slim.   
 
When used in tandem with BES or BESx, BlackBerry Mobile Fusion delivers a total device management solution capable of supporting the full spectrum of devices from a single interface, which was not previously offered in the marketplace. Before BlackBerry Mobile Fusion, system administrators at companies with BYOD policies had to control BlackBerry and non-BlackBerry devices on separate screens. 
 
For companies with BlackBerry heavily ingrained in their organization, and an inclination to incorporate BB10 devices when available, BlackBerry Mobile Fusion is a win for employees who want more flexibility in terms of device choice and system administrators who wish to utilize  software they are familiar with and manage everything from a single platform. For others, however,  may still not be enough.
 
Why BlackBerry Mobile Fusion Matters
 
No doubt BlackBerry Mobile Fusion is a significant milestone for RIM, setting up the opportunity for a new type of comeback in the enterprise mobility space. In many ways, BlackBerry Mobile Fusion represents a philosophical shift in RIM’s approach to mobility management away from its traditional walled garden solution architecture Its release is a clear sign RIM acknowledges the importance of consumer choice in enterprise mobility. 
 
Whether or not BlackBerry Mobile Fusion can successfully reboot the RIM brand remains to be seen. Several issues have the potential to complicate the solution’s adoption rates on a go-forward basis. For example, although BlackBerry Mobile Fusion will accommodate the BB10 OS (set for a Fall 2012 release), will RIM stay current on iOS and Android releases and integrate new mobile operating systems such as Windows Phone into the solution? How aggressively will RIM maintain the UDS features and capabilities to keep UDS competitive with other MDM providers?  Going forward will UDS have similar feature functionality compared to BDS, or will it languish as a step child?
 
This remains to be seen but how it plays out will definitely impact the long-term viability of BlackBerry Mobile Fusion and RIM’s continued relevancy in the enterprise mobility space. If the company fails to keep pace with Android, iOS and other operating systems, it could imply RIM’s commitment to BYOD and a diverse enterprise mobility approach is diluted.
 
By responding to the needs of the marketplace rather than dictating the types of devices (e.g. BlackBerry only) that can be managed by its solutions, RIM is transitioning out of the role of a mobility strategy creator and into a new role as a well-rounded and potentially agile mobility services partner. If RIM plays their cards right, it is possible that BlackBerry Mobile Fusion could be a strong player in the mobile space well into the foreseeable future.

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