RIM revealed plans nearly a year ago for a cloud-based service to integrate Microsoft's Office 365 service with BlackBerry mobile devices. In October, RIM unveiled more specific details, and launched a beta program for the new service. Now, BlackBerry Cloud Services are finally available to the general public.
The BlackBerry Cloud Service is hosted by RIM, and extends the capabilities of BlackBerry smartphones by integrating the Microsoft Office 365 backend. BlackBerry devices using the service can connect with Microsoft Exchange Online data such as email, calendar, and contacts.
The service is particularly valuable for small and medium businesses. SMBs don't have the IT skills or resources necessary to host a BlackBerry Enterprise Server, and manage the BlackBerry infrastructure, so they end up stuck using consumer-grade BlackBerry services. With BlackBerry Cloud Services, SMBs can take advantage of what BES has to offer while leaving the day to day maintenance and administration of the backend infrastructure in RIM's hands.
BlackBerry Cloud Service uses a simple Web-based console to provision, manage, and secure BlackBerry devices. It also provides a variety of self-service security functions that enable users to reset passwords, or remotely lock a lost or stolen device on their own to minimize the need for support.
Managed service providers, IT consultants, and service resellers can use the BlackBerry Cloud Service to provision, manage, and monitor BlackBerry mobile devices on behalf of their customer.
BlackBerry Balance is a feature that many customers will greatly appreciate. BlackBerry Balance displays business and personal emails in a unified view while keeping the actual content separate and secure in the background. It provides functionality that users desire without complicating device management and data protection efforts by intermingling the data.
I have been less than enthusiastic about the recent changes at RIM, or the future prospects for the once dominant company, but it is precisely services like this that define the market for RIM, and make BlackBerry the mobile device of choice for many organizations.
BlackBerry Business Cloud Services and Microsoft Office 365 for BlackBerry are available now, and are being offered free for customers who already subscribe to the cloud-based Microsoft Office 365 productivity suite.