RIM announced the release of BlackBerry Enterprise Server 5.0.2, which allows IT administrators and end-users to manage their BlackBerry devices within an enterprise context. While RIM's upcoming BlackBerry 6 operating system is designed to compete more heartily against the Apple iPhone and Google Android, the new Server release shows its continued focus on the enterprise.
As Research In Motion preps its BlackBerry 6 operating
system, the company is releasing BlackBerry Enterprise Server 5.0.2, software
with a variety of new features designed to help IT administrators and end users
manage their BlackBerry devices within a business context. Many of the features
seem oriented toward creating a clearer line between the personal and business
functions on an individual user's BlackBerry-perhaps a nod toward the devices'
use in a variety of contexts.
Additions to BlackBerry Enterprise Server 5.0.2 include a
Single Sign-On feature that lets both end-users and administrators, once logged
into the system, access the BlackBerry Web Desktop Manager and BlackBerry
Administrator Service without needing to re-enter a user ID or password. IT
administrators can also remove corporate data from a particular BlackBerry
device without risking the owner's personal information or applications.
In that same spirit of bifurcation between a BlackBerry
user's personal and business functions, a new Individual-Liable Devices Policy
lets employees who actually own their Blackberry device, and are connected to
their company's BlackBerry Enterprise Server, access their personal e-mail and
calendar-as well as make calls on their personal voice plan-even when the
device is locked. Users now have the option of resetting the password on the
device, or wiping it clean of data-options previously reserved for IT
On the IT administrator side, different authentication
requirements can be assigned to specific URLs, such as company ones that
contain customer information. In addition, BlackBerry Enterprise Server 5.0.2
includes predefined administration groups, allowing IT administrators a
standardized method of assigning permissions and access to different IT staff
such as help desk or senior administrators. IT pros can take this feature one step
further, assigning specific IT policies to groups within the broader company;
blended IT policies can be delivered to specific BlackBerry devices depending
on the groups to which their owners belong.
RIM has also added support for additional Web browsers: now
Google Chrome 4.0, Internet Explorer 8, Mozilla Firefox 3.6 and Safari 4
support access to the BlackBerry Administration Service for IT Staff and
BlackBerry Web Desktop Manager. The BlackBerry Enterprise Server platform now
supports Windows Server 2008 R2, MS Hyper-V 2008, and support for SQL Server
2008 R2 expected within 30 days of release.
The updates to BlackBerry Enterprise Server come at a time
when RIM finds itself facing increased competition in both the enterprise and
consumer contexts. On April 27, RIM
President and co-CEO Mike Lazaridis unveiled the BlackBerry 6 operating system
during an address at the company's Wireless Enterprise Symposium in Orlando,
Lazaridis described the operating system as the "biggest
step forward for the BlackBerry experience in our history," noting the variety
of revamped features such as multitouch functionality, bookmarks, easy-to-access
search, and pan-and-zoom scrolling from screen to screen. Analysts saw those
additions as potentially helping RIM compete against not only Google Android
and the Apple iPhone, but also the upcoming Windows Phone 7, with which
Microsoft is making a play for both the consumer and enterprise audiences.
In the meantime, RIM continues to hold a prime position
within the enterprise context. Originally introduced in May 2009, BlackBerry
Enterprise Server 5.0 was designed to improve security for a variety of
enterprise functions, including e-mail; in addition, it gives IT administrators
a Web-based interface for pushing mandatory applications onto users' phones. RIM
followed that up in February 2010 with the free BlackBerry Enterprise Server
Express, which synchronizes BlackBerry devices with either Microsoft
Exchange or Microsoft Windows Small Business Server-positioning the company as
a provider of cost-effective mobility solutions for smaller IT departments.
Many of the new features present in BlackBerry Enterprise
Server 5.0.2 will apparently find their way into BlackBerry Enterprise Server
Express' next software release, scheduled for later in 2010.
Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.