Has Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM ) finally given up on its fight for survival and surrendered to the likes of Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) and Google? That might be your initial impression upon hearing about the release of the company's new Mobile Fusion software. But perspectives differ, and the way I see it, this may be RIM in a different "avatar" altogether.
It's all about interoperability
The only other thing RIM is famous for, apart from its BlackBerry line of smartphones, is its BlackBerry Enterprise Server platform, with the latter being the binding force behind its products aimed at the corporate sector. BlackBerry Mobile Fusion simply extends the whole concept to include non-BlackBerry operating systems as well -- most importantly, Apple's iOS and Google's Android systems. Mobile Fusion, which has been dubbed as the company's MDM, or mobile device management solution, is said to be a scalable, cost-effective, and secure solution that should help organizations manage the string of personal devices (often running on competing operating systems) that their employees are increasingly being allowed to use. And it's high time BlackBerry makes such a move, given the alarming rate at which it is losing its coveted enterprise customers.
More Apples and fewer BlackBerrys
A growing number of companies are allowing their employees to use their personal devices for official purposes. While some companies such as Credit Suisse and Barclays Capital have allowed employees to use their own iPhones or Android-powered devices, others such as Halliburton, an oil-field-services company and Standard Chartered have actually made the switch from BlackBerry to Apple iPhones for official handset usage.
According to Forrester Research, it is estimated that businesses would buy iPads worth about $10 billion this year. By 2013, this figure could very well become a whopping $16 billion. So you can imagine the kind of competition RIM faces at least from a company like Apple.
What's in it for companies
At the same time, managing different mobile platforms may very well be a headache for any company's IT department, and a drain on its infrastructure costs at the same time. RIM's Mobile Fusion software may be the answer to their problems, providing the beleaguered company with an alternate source of revenue. Enterprise customers have always found BlackBerry's enterprise software security features to be very appealing but now feel the need to manage other non-RIM devices as well on a single secure platform. Now, the company's Mobile Fusion architecture would allow businesses to retain the BlackBerry standard of security across a diverse range of non-RIM devices as well.
A Foolish conclusion
It's time RIM thinks about a change in its core area of business and evolve into a software provider, while not discarding its original role as a handset maker altogether. This is somewhat similar to what companies such as Dell (Nasdaq: DELL ) are trying to do, as they opt to evolve into a newer role, while also re-launching certain products on a new platform. Dell has recently made as many as three acquisitions in a bid to shift to the role of an enterprise cloud computing service provider and adopting a different stance from its original role as a PC maker.
RIM is also making a last-ditch effort to try to salvage the BlackBerry device itself by introducing the much-talked-about BB10 operating system by the end of this year. However, it's a wait and watch game for now.
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