Will RIM's Rope-a-Dope Pay Off?

Research in Motion's BlackBerry devices have a solid place in the enterprise, due in no small part to its BlackBerry Enterprise Server. I admit that I've been dismissive of RIM's future, thanks to widespread adoption of Android and iOS devices in corporate settings, but I may have to find a new way to prepare crow. Today's announcement by RIM of plans to release later this year a multi-platform management toolset - dubbed BlackBerry Enterprise Solution - means that I'm going to be looking at recipes for the next few weeks.

RIM logo, black

This is, as Vice President Biden would say, a big effing deal. IT departments are already comfortable with managing RIM's own devices through BlackBerry Enterprise Server and BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express, and with the technology that the company is acquiring as part of its purchase of Germany's Ubitexx, BlackBerry Enterprise Server will be joined by a package built for managing Android and iOS devices.

Although the Ubitexx-based management tools will remain separate from BlackBerry Enterprise Server for now, RIM will provide a browser-based management console that will manage both BlackBerry Enterprise Server and the tools for Android and iOS. I wouldn't be at all surprised if in another year or two these components are merged into a single package. Although there are some capabilities and features that will be specific to BlackBerry devices for the immediate future, it's realistic to assume that others, such as the Balance technology that debuted today - which allows devices to be managed by corporate policies without affecting personal data - will be replicated on the competing platforms.

Of course, dollars and cents will have a lot to do with how well companies embrace the BlackBerry Enterprise Solution. If IT departments find that RIM's combined device management offerings wind up being less expensive than a combination of BlackBerry Enterprise Server and other tools, then RIM could knock its competitors out of the ring. Alternatively, if RIM decides that this is going to be a gold-plated offering with prices to match, it could wind up leading with its chin.