Will BlackBerry Fusion Universal Device Service shake up the mobile device management market?

Research in Motion is anticipating a late March launch of BlackBerry Mobile Fusion Universal Device Service, a component of BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) that will allow it to manage iOS and Android devices.

Research in Motion is anticipating a late March launch of BlackBerry Mobile Fusion Universal Device Service, a component of BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) that will allow it to manage iOS and Android devices. With BES already estabilished in 250,000 companies worldwide, these new capabilities could potentially have a large impact on the emerging iOS and Android management industry.

Background

When iOS and Android devices first came out, the refrain from many organizations was that they were unmanageable, which was completely true, at first. There was no way to plug them into anything remotely resembling a BES, and to administrators that were used to having control over all devices, including phones, this was a big deal. However, as successive versions of iOS and Android came along, more and more MDM APIs were opened up. With that, a huge crop of MDM vendors came in to fill the hole. Now Android and iOS devices can be managed almost to the same degree that BES manages BlackBerrys.

Problem solved, right? Not for RIM. Those new devices, whether managed or not, left BlackBerrys seeming old and out of fashion. At the same time, though, the non-BlackBerry MDM market still has a lot of shaking-out to do—there will inevitably be consolidation. For right now, many iOS and Android devices are still unmanaged, because it takes longer for organizations to react than it took for employees to start demanding and using non-BlackBerry devices. And in the mean time, while some organizations are trying to decide what to do, upstart bloggers like me are suggesting that the devices don’t need to be managed anyway.

Enter Mobile Fusion

With BlackBerry having such a bad year in 2011, it’s natural that they would want to capitalize in some way on the popularity of iOS and Android devices. Their response is BlackBerry Mobile Fusion Universal Device Service.

Mobile Fusion is the generic term for the new web interface that is used to manage PlayBook tablets and other devices. Fusion is a free add-on component to BES, and will eventually replace the existing interface. The PlayBook component was released in February, to coincide with the 2.0 version of the PlayBook’s operating system. The Universal Device Service is due sometime around the end of March, though the exact date hasn’t been announced yet.

Is RIM too late to the party for iOS and Android management? Probably not, since we’re still at a point where most organizations don’t have comprehensive strategies in place, and the number of MDM vendors is still expanding.

All these vendors have access to the exact same set of APIs on iOS and Android devices, which means that when it comes to checking off management features—remote wipe, passcode enforcement, et cetera—every single vendor's offering will be exactly the same. So when it comes to pure management, there will be no question about whether or not BlackBerry can do it as well as other companies—they’ll be the same as all the rest. Where these vendors differentiate themselves is on the other end. Some have proprietary management systems, some pass through directly to Active Directory; some use cloud services to connect the two ends and some require on-site software. This is one of the areas where BlackBerry Mobile Fusion has a big advantage. Even if the web interface is different from old versions of BES, it’s still the same product, from the same vendor, that companies have been using for 13 years.

Some MDM vendors also add value by incorporating mobile data management, PIM, or mobile app management apps with their solutions. For right now the Fusion Universal Device Service app won’t do anything other than install MDM profiles, but there have been hints that future versions will include some of these value-add features.

What’s next?

So will organizations looking for MDM forget all the other vendors out there and just manage iOS and Android devices with BES, considering that there's a pretty good chance that it's already there? On the other hand, licensing costs could get in the way—after all, one of the benefits of going to unmanaged non-BlackBerry devices is that there are no expensive CALs to buy (or at least they're cheaper). These will both be happening within the context of an MDM market that's ripe for consolidation. Companies with legacy BES installations will probably welcome the Universal Device service, but for smaller, younger companies that are able to take risks with newer MDM vendors, BlackBerry seems an unlikely choice.

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Brian dead just like MDM is. How many devices am I supposed to F;ing manage? F that, it's about managing apps on user managed devices. I don't want to manage any f;ing device it's BS commodity crap.


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I agree that it's better to focus on managing data and users, but lots of IT departments are still stuck in the "must manage devices" mindset. And if that doesn't change, their familiarity with BES and RIM's enterprise features could make BlackBerry Mobile Fusion a successful product.


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I just read on AllThingsD that BlackBerry Mobile Fusion will require an on-device client to "perform advanced management functions for iOS devices." And they're hiring iOS developers to build this client. Maybe they're looking for a way to do more than other MDM vendors that just tie into APIs?


If RIM can have an advantage there as well as on the back end with BES, they'd be in a really strong position.


allthingsd.com/.../why-is-rim-hiring-ios-app-developers


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Colin -


Blackberry requires a a client for the OS as all MDM vendors do because it's the only way to do things like jailbreak detection etc.


Fusion is nice idea but a little late to the party - most of the big enterprises are already doing some sort of MDM so there is no reason to go forth with this and the real answer is they need to be looking towards MAM and MIM. In reality the same basic functions is only as tarter and you need more for admission to the party.


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I got the impression from reading that AllThingsD article that BlackBerry is planning to do more with its client than other MDM vendors do with theirs, but maybe that's just how I read it or how the article was framed.


I agree that organizations should be looking at MAM and MIM instead of MDM, but that doesn't necessarily mean they will. MDM is straight from the old-school, try-to-control-everything IT mentality, which still appeals to a certain segment.


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With MDM being the traditional IT thinking of managing everything it would seem like the ideal solution but what you see is that now many large enterprise customers are now slowly opening up this requirement to adjust to the market.


Fusion is just MDM and yes many companies are still in the process of evaluating and deploying MDM but the next wave is MAM and Content Management.


Players such as MI or AW are already riding this wave and with their ever large presence in the market the MAM portion is a natural next step based on demand. Fusion needs to be in this space to ensure RIM's survival in the Enterprise space.


BYOD is here and I believe it will grow even further once there are innovative solutions that not only provide MDM but also ride on the financial cost savings that carrier's will provide - there are growing synergies for full mobility solutions that integrate MDM, MAM, Billing and also full endpoint management with BYOD PC's


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