In an enterprise-oriented road map for its BlackBerry smartphone platform, RIM (Research in Motion) is planning a BlackBerry client for Microsoft's SharePoint collaboration platform as well as middleware capabilities for enterprise application integration and cloud-based mobile device management.
The road map supports RIM's hope that businesses in general, and CIOs in particular, will get past their experimentation with iPhone and other mobile devices and turn back to the security and compliance approaches of the past that favor the BlackBerry platform. "We believe issues of complance and security will again be their focus," said Alec Taylor, vice president of product marketing at RIM. He suggested that only the BlackBerry platform can support such a focus, saying that mobile management tools for competing platforms aren't capable enough.
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SharePoint client for BlackBerry
Due early this year, the BlackBerry SharePoint client for Microsoft manages documents and shares SharePoint calendar events, according to RIM. The client provides document-centric collaboration and integrates with BlackBerry applications like email, calendar, and browser.
"[The client] allows you access to SharePoint from your BlackBerry," enabling users to get work documents and collaborate with colleagues while out of the office or away from their PC, Taylor said. The SharePoint client would function with the BES (BlackBerry Enterprise Server).
Forrester Research analyst Jeffrey Hammond lauded RIM's SharePoint move. "I think it makes a lot of sense because we've seen almost viral deployment of SharePoint," and customers want mobile support for it, Hammond said. He added getting SharePoint on the rival iOS or Android platforms would be a difficult proposition. (There are third-party SharePoint clients for iOS, however.) RIM needs to make a move like this to keep BlackBerry popular within IT organizations, Hammond said.
Enterprise application integration
The company's BEAM (BlackBerry Enterprise Application Middleware), also due in 2011, is intended to help BlackBerrys better accommodate applications initially written for PCs. "BEAM is a set of libraries and APIs that help to mobilize line-of-business applications" for delivery to a BlackBerry, Taylor said. RIM is working with partners like Oracle and SAP to tune applications for BEAM.
Also working with BES, BEAM would feature alerts to client-side applications and make device-side information available to server-side applications. RIM also said that BEAM will automatically rework the data transmitted from such applications to be more efficient, so as to reduce the load on cellular and Wi-Fi networks.
BEAM also met with analyst Hammond's approval: "Employees are spending more and more time out of their offices and away from their desktops and laptops, but they still want these capabilities."