RIM has launched iOS and Android support in its BlackBerry Mobile Fusion mobile device management (MDM) software. The new feature known as Universal Device Service follows February’s initial launch of BlackBerry Mobile Fusion. The initial launch primarily provided the ability to manage RIM’s PlayBook tablet. The launch of the iOS and Android components of the software have been expected for quite some time.
The release is likely to be welcome news to companies and IT departments that are established customers of RIM products. Beyond those customers, however, BlackBerry Mobile Fusion simply joins a long list of existing MDM services that support iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and Even RIM’s own BlackBerry OS.
BlackBerry Mobile Fusion consists of a server component that offers web-based management of devices as well as on-device clients for iOS and Android. The iOS client app, which is an iPhone app rather than a universal app, went live in the App Store this morning and is available for free. The app provides a streamlined enrollment process and RIM is suggesting that IT departments that deploy Mobile Fusion as their MDM solution have iOS users download the app on their own to begin the process.
Offering a multi-platform MDM solution is new for RIM, but it isn’t new for a lot of other companies. RIM entering a very crowded and competitive field with Mobile Fusion. Many MDM companies already support the same mix of platforms and capabilities.
RIM’s announcement on its Business Blog even seems to make an effort to point out that Mobile Fusion doesn’t offer anything new and that it isn’t up to the capabilities of the company’s BlackBerry Enterprise Server, which blogger Roger B. (RIM doesn’t provide his full name or any information about his role at the company) calls “champagne of enterprise mobility solutions” – but Roger tells us that that’s okay – “given how individual-liable devices are typically used, this is often quite sufficient.”
That seems to be a very labored attempt to sell readers on BlackBerry Enterprise Server instead of Mobile Fusion and it’s one that illustrates RIM’s confusion about how best to approach a consumerized IT world. By hyping two different solutions, RIM doesn’t seem to make a good case for either of them.
Nowhere in the post or RIM’s press release is there anything that helps differentiate Mobile Fusions from the rest of the market. In fact some of the features that appear to be in the iOS Mobile Fusion client like an enterprise app store, aren’t even discussed. Even RIM’s promotional video for Mobile Fusion seems to mention other platforms in passing and dwells more on the PlayBook (a tablet that Apple outsold by a factor of three in launch weekend for the new iPad) than on the challenge of managing multiple device platforms and how Mobile Fusion can meet that challenge.
Ultimately, it is a little too early to call Mobile Fusion as either a failure or a success – but RIM’s apparently muddled understanding of the impact of the consumerization of IT and BYOD as well as the current state of the mobile market doesn’t make the situation look good.