RIM plans to release a set of new tools within the first half of 2009 which will address a number of longstanding complaints from Mac users, a source from RIM told CIO magazine.

It can't happen too soon, as the existing limitations can be annoying, to say the least. Currently, BlackBerry owners with Macs cannot perform a number of important functions which are built-in to users running Microsoft Windows with RIM's BlackBerry Desktop Manager software, shipped with every BlackBerry device.

The Desktop Manager utility (which, we're told, does run in Parallels) enables Windows users to update their BlackBerry operating systems; to back up and restore data on their BlackBerrys; and to manage BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) corporate email settings, as well as other features.

There are a couple of Desktop Manager alternatives for Mac users, including PocketMac and Missing Sync, but neither offers close to the full range of features within BlackBerry Desktop Manager for PC.

"We know that we don't have an ideal solution for Mac users," the RIM source said. "It's something that's been on our radar since 2004, at least."

Though the source said the new Mac tools are expected during the first half of next year, he would not provide specific details on release dates or product features. It's still unclear whether RIM plans to release its own Mac-compatible version of Desktop Manager or work with a third-party software vendor to develop a comparable product (like an improved version of PocketMac). Conceivably they might consider a combination of the two, in which RIM-developed software would be packaged along with software from an outside vendor.

The current version of the RIM-developed BlackBerry Desktop Manager for PC includes third-party media management software from Roxio.

"In terms of a strategy, we want to do well by our customers. Whether that translates into something that RIM develops or licenses or pays for a third party to build, I can't say at this point," the RIM source said. "We're trying the best that we can to get a better experience out for Mac users."

RIM's future strategy also includes a sharper focus on wireless, or over-the-air (OTA), services, the source said. For example, the latest available version of the BlackBerry OS, v4.6, which currently is found on RIM's new BlackBerry Bold 9000 device, lets BES and BlackBerry Internet Service (BIS) users upgrade their handheld OS wirelessly, directly from their BlackBerrys; no desktop computer, be it Mac or PC, is necessary.

"Our long-term strategy is to be able to keep the user going without requiring them to be connected to the desktop for anything," the source said. "That's the ultimate aim."