Is RIM's BYOD Team Exempt From the BlackBerry 10 Holding Pattern?

NEWS ANALYSIS: The wait for BlackBerry 10 has much of RIM in a holding pattern until early 2013. Is its BYOD team, focused on the iOS- and Android-friendly Mobile Fusion, the exception?

When BlackBerry maker Research In Motion announced in June that it was delaying the launch of BlackBerry 10€”a completely new platform that will launch with what RIM promises are terrific new smartphones and, if all goes according to plan, save the ailing company€”it put a number of departments in a pinch.

The Canadian company€™s applications team has apologized to developers, who it acknowledged have "rent to pay" and, to RIM's regret, have been personally affected by the delay. Its handset division is also in the unenviable position of needing to sell BlackBerry 7 smartphones that, while fantastic devices, by some accounts, won't be capable of upgrading to BlackBerry 10 when it arrives in early 2013.

The one division that may not be in a waiting limbo€”indeed, may even be benefitting from the massive adoption of iPhones and high-end Android devices that have slaughtered RIM's market share over the last few years€”is RIM's bring-your-own-device (BYOD) team, focused on its Mobile Fusion mobile-device-management (MDM) solution.

"I think it's a really exciting spot to be in and time for RIM," Jeff Holleran, RIM's senior director of enterprise product management, told eWEEK during a July 31 interview.

Holleran continued:

"The overall size of the smartphone market just continues to grow and grow ... Years ago, people used to say, "We've bought all the smartphones we're going to need for our organization€”we'll never need more€”we've equipped all our executives." And now you're finding that's never been the case. [Smartphone adoption has] rolled down through the organization and it continues to roll out.As more people buy smartphones and bring those devices into organizations, those organizations are incredibly motivated to be able to manage those devices and manage which devices are connecting, how they're connecting and what's going to happen to the data that's on that device.We made the decision a while back to get into the market of managing across the different platforms that are out there, from a mobility perspective, and it's been a really exciting time for us since then. The level of customer interest and demand has really taken off."

Holleran says that interest in Mobile Fusion extends well beyond the regulated industries€”government, health care, etc.€”that have been RIM's bread and butter. Customers, he says, want to "support a heterogeneous device environment, as users bring in their holiday gifts or their latest technology acquisitions."

RIM is seeing a "good, even mix" of mobile platforms in enterprises, though certainly there's large interest in iPhones and iPads, says Holleran. Though the devices people bring in, he added, much depends on their geography and industry.

While the BYOD trend found traction in the United States and Western Europe, it's now also growing in Asia, and on July 31, RIM made Mobile Fusion available to enterprise customers in Singapore.

According to IDC research in the Asia-Pacific, over the next 12 months, 60 percent of organizations plan to stop providing phones and rely on employee-purchased phones, and 70 percent plan to allow employees to bring their own tablets.

Are there trends forming within the larger BYOD trend?

"It's something that customers and enterprises are really still trying to wrap their heads around," said Holleran.

He explained:

"They're still trying to understand all the different implications of having a BYOD policy. If they're providing a stipend to the user, how is that handled, and what's the cost of processing that? ... And trailing backward even further, they're trying to understand what the implications are from a tax base. There are a variety of human-resources-type consequences when you go into a BYOD world that many companies are struggling with, as they jumped into this unaware of all the consequences.We're trying to do everything we can to support those customers and work through those needs with them and bring in the right technologies, so that they're empowered to work with the users that bring their own devices, as well as the users that are on corporate-liable devices."

What will BlackBerry 10's arrival mean for Mobile Fusion?

Holleran explains that BlackBerry Balance, a core principal of the new platform, complements RIM's current efforts in that it facilitates a way for the business and the personal to coexist. Balance offers users a view of both personal and corporate data€”an email account, for example, may include both types of emails. When a person leaves an organization, however, all the corporate-relevant information is pulled off the device, but the user's personal emails and other content are left undisturbed.

RIM executives have continued to publically express their optimism and excitement about the company's future, and Holleran is no exception€”apart from seeming possibly excused from the purgatory€”holding pattern?€”that much of the rest of the company is now waiting out.

"This is a growing market. The acronyms that people are tossing around€”MDM and MAM [mobile-application management]€”are newer terms to the market but areas that RIM has been involved with for years," Holleran told eWEEK.

"We continue to grow our offering. We've announced a number of enhancements coming this year, and we're well on track for the development of those ... We're excited to get them into customers' hands."

Follow Michelle Maisto on Twitter.