BlackBerry maker Research In Motion is poised to offer consumers several features that until now have been extended only to its enterprise customers.
RIM introduced BlackBerry Protect on the company's Inside BlackBerry blog July 12, announcing that the software is currently being beta tested and will launch later the same week as a limited beta to certain members of the BlackBerry Beta Zone program.
BlackBerry Protect offers the ability to wirelessly back up and restore data, and can locate a device whether it's been misplaced around the house or left in a taxi.
To get started, users download and install the BlackBerry Protect application on their handsets. From there, they can choose what types of information to back up-just e-mail or contacts, for example, or both e-mail and calendar information-as well as how frequently the data should be automatically saved.
On this point, the site warned, "Remember to always check with your wireless service provider to determine any additional charges that may be incurred through your use of the wireless network."
Regarding lost devices of the it's-here-somewhere variety, by logging into the BlackBerry Protect portal a user can make his or her phone ring loudly for a minute-even if it was set to silent. Also through the portal, a device that's been misplaced out in the world, or worse, stolen, can be located via GPS. Users also have the option of locking down a missing device, sending a note that will appear on the device's home screen ("If you find this, please call x number") or even wiping all data from the device. Because the data has been backed up, however, it's simple to make a brand-new device quickly mimic the older lost one.
While RIM doesn't mention pricing on its site or blog, CrackBerry.com reported that the service will be offered free of charge to consumer BlackBerry Internet Service customers.
How to get on board?
"If you're a member of Beta Zone and don't receive a download code, don't worry, you will be able to try it out when it reaches open public beta later this year," wrote Douglas Soltys, editor in chief of Inside BlackBerry. He added, for anyone not already a member of the BlackBerry Beta Zone-a group that tries out new RIM software and communicates opinions about it back to the company-it's not too late to sign up.
While BlackBerry handsets have been considered the gold standard of enterprise mobility thanks to the handsets' security and push e-mail features, the company has enjoyed considerable success among consumers, as well, and now finds its user base to be equally split between the two.
During its fiscal first quarter of 2011, RIM executives announced revenue of $4.24 billion, and the shipment of the 100 millionth BlackBerry smartphone. RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie also hinted at exciting future products, which he called "a quantum leap" ahead of devices currently on the market.
What RIM has planned, Balsillie said, "is really powerful."