There's both good news and bad news for Research in Motion (RIM), the Canadian company that builds the long-popular BlackBerry smart phone devices.
The good news is that RIM is porting its BlackBerry security solutions to both the Apple iPhone and various Google Android devices.
The bad news is, well, same as above. While it will be nice to be able to use some of the Blackberry's advanced security features on other devices, this announcement also reflects a certain level of risk-taking on the part of RIM -- to remain a relevant player in the enterprise mobile device space.
It's also worth noting that this announcement came during a week when RIM also announced that its third-quarter revenue was "slightly lower" than the $5.3 billion to $5.6 billion the company had projected. RIM also stated that it doesn't expect to meet its full-year profit target. BlackBerry is recognized for the security of its products, and the fact that it chose to leverage its secure solutions as a way to enhance the security of other platforms shows that the company is willing to bet its top technologies in a big way.
On the plus side, RIM's willingness to offer some of its security solutions to competing platforms could be good news for government smart phone users. What's being made available is an enterprise platform to help manage smart phone devices in a secure way. There definitely is a need for this within government agencies. RIM's Mobile Fusion solution, works across BlackBerry and other platforms to monitor and manage specific applications, passwords and e-mails on enterprise mobile devices. Commands also can be issues to remotely lock devices or erase data. While data encryption is also supported, that function also needs to be supported by the end devices, and not all smart phones offer this capability.
As purely a handheld devices, RIM would be at risk of becoming a marginalized player in the enterprise mobile device space. But as a back-office platform focused on device management, RIM could still find some staying power. The longer-term issue is that many government offices are getting out of the business of maintaining their own email and other access management servers. Since they are able to obtain this type of functionality from cloud service providers, the question is, will those providers want to rely on RIM's Mobile Fusion tools? Or do they have other favored solutions?
But there is one more positive note. The popularity of highly-secure handheld devices continues to grow within the Defense Department and also t he Department of Homeland Security, because secure cell phones can be a cheaper solution than highly secure radio communication platforms. If this trend continues, RIM could indeed find some new life for the products it sells to federal, state and local governments. But it's important to keep in mind that this also remains a very competitive space, and it's not yet clear that the BlackBerry platform, even with its Mobile fusion tools, will become a different player -- in a new way -- for government mobile devices. But RIM is giving it a good shot, and that's to be admired.