Canadian smartphone giant Research in Motion is supposed to be synonymous with business mobility. But if its latest mobile management tool is any indication, small businesses are less and less part of the company's plans.
The latest example is the BlackBerry Mobile Fusion, a new mobile device management tool RIM recently unveiled. Mobile Fusion allows for Apple's iOS and Google's Android devices to be remotely managed in shops that also use BlackBerry Enterprise Server, RIM’s business management software package for mostly larger firms. The service is expected to be ready in March. Closed-beta testing begins in January.
We broke down the new app's small business feature-set ahead of the official release. Here's what we found:
The good news: RIM is bringing mobile 'bring-your-own-device' management to Blackberry shops. As more employees use personal devices for work, the trend is: They're opting for consumer-friendly smartphones like the iPhone or Droid as well BlackBerrys. Mobile Fusion allows businesses that have traditionally used RIM phones to protect company data stored on non-RIM personal devices. Users running BlackBerry Enterprise Server will be able to lock and wipe remote devices, set Wi-Fi and email settings for BlackBerry, iOS and Android tools.
And they can do it all from the same central control panel.
The bad news: Mobile Fusion is aimed at larger companies and probably won't be much of a small business solution. For instance, it requires deploying BlackBerry Enterprise Sever, which costs $3,999 for 20 users on top of the cost of existing Microsoft software, dedicated IT support and time to train your employees.
The cost and complexity puts this tool out of reach of for many small firms.
More bad news: Small companies will be stuck cobbling together their own mobile device management solutions. Smaller companies that use RIM devices can try to emulate some of the Mobile Fusion features, but it will require integrating other tools. For example, RIM's BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express and BlackBerry Management Center can manage email and security for RIM tools. Both are free, but they do not manage Apple's iOS or Android devices. To support those, companies will require third-party tools such as MobileIron which is priced at $4 per device per month, or $75 with a perpetual license, which offers comprehensive cross-platform management solutions.
Bottom line: Medium- and large-size companies could find a role for this tool. But for the vast majority of small businesses that hope to run BlackBerrys as well as iPhones and Droids, Mobile Fusion will be of little value.