Research in Motion made a small splash this week with its Mobile Fusion announcement that it was developing a version of its signature BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) management tool that also manages Apple iOS devices such as the iPhone and iPad, as well as the vast panoply of Android tablets. That sounds like a breakthrough in iOS and Android security, the kind of product that would instantly appeal to BlackBerry-happy IT pros.
Except it isn't that kind of product. First, RIM announced these intentions in May when it acquired the mobile device management (MDM) company Ubitexx; all that's really new in this week's follow-up announcement is the product name and the "late March" expected release date. The planned offering is simply the current BES and an updated version of the Ubitexx tool under a common management console. That's a slight convenience, but nothing more.
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What's not been said in the immediate press release-based news coverage is RIM's careful statement that its MDM tool will implement only those "inherent" capabilities of iOS and Android. Translation: None of the stuff that IT really likes about BES, such as its 500-plus security policies and military-level encryption, will apply to iOS and Android devices. RIM is doing nothing to advance iOS or Android security.
So why bother with Mobile Fusion? After all, dozens of MDM vendors support the "inherent" iOS and Android security capabilities. And a good half-dozen strong MDM providers offer proven, innovative, and value-added MDM tools.
Any company that now supports iOS or Android devices already deals with two MDM consoles: one for BlackBerry, and one for the rest. The benefit of having a single console is long gone. Plus, any company with serious security needs already has an MDM tool in place, and porting from that to RIM's Mobile Fusion will only create a period of risk and expense during that transition for no security benefit whatsoever.
Had RIM released (not merely announced, as it is wont to do) a product like Mobile Fusion in summer 2010, right after Apple introduced the MDM APIs in iOS 4, it could have taken over the then-nascent MDM market, knocking out established providers such as Zenprise, Sybase, and Good Technology and preventing the birth of future powerhouses such as MobileIron. But as it has done so often, RIM clung to the hope that the iPhone (and later iPad and Android) would go away, so it let others meet the mobile security challenge instead.
When RIM ships Mobile Fusion in March (or later, given its history), no one should care. It adds nothing you don't already have or can't already get. Why wait?
This article, "RIM's faux BES for iOS and Android: Too little, too late," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Galen Gruman's Mobile Edge blog and follow the latest developments in mobile technology at InfoWorld.com. Follow Galen's mobile musings on Twitter at MobileGalen. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.