BlackBerry to support Microsoft Office 365 services

Business cloud services offer Exchange Online via RIM-hosted cloud management platform.

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RIM has unveiled BlackBerry Business Cloud Services for Microsoft Office 365 by launching an open beta in over 30 countries.

The new online services are hosted by RIM and aimed at mid-sized businesses (SMBs) that want to extend their existing Microsoft Exchange Online environments to BlackBerry smartphones and manage their BlackBerry deployments in the cloud.

In a move away from its traditional, on-premise model, the services offer web-based IT and employee self-service smartphone management and security functions, as well as new unified view feature called Balance.

Alan Panezic, RIM's vice president stated that BlackBerry Business Cloud Services was an easy and cost-effective way for businesses and government agencies to extend Microsoft Office 365 to BlackBerry smartphones in the cloud.

RIM's recent 'cloudburst' will not go unpunished, so it also needs to address this angle with suitable service level undertakings.

"We have been working together with Microsoft and select customers through an early access programme and we are pleased to now launch an open beta for the service," he added.

RIM said a number of Fortune 500 customers and several US government agencies in the participated in the early access programme.

The service includes BlackBerry Balance technology, which is designed to present a unified view of work and personal content on its smartphone device while keeping the content separate and secure. Online access to employee self-service smartphone security functions also allows users to reset a device password or remotely lock or wipe a device in the event of loss or theft.

And access to Microsoft Exchange Online email, calendar and organiser data from the smartphone is controlled from a web-based console for IT administrators to provision, manage and secure the device estate.

RIM is also courting managed service providers, systems integrators, carriers, resellers and other partners with the cloud service to manage BlackBerry deployments on behalf of their customers.

Rob Bamforth, principal communications and convergence analyst for Quocirca, told IT Pro's sister title Cloud Pro that cloud-based services for SMB mobile fleets were generally a good thing.

"However, it shows a tacit acceptance by RIM that exchange is the key email platform and it has to try harder to avoid being side-lined from enterprise decision making," he said. "Extending device management features is a good step, but more are needed. RIM's recent 'cloudburst' will not go unpunished, so it also needs to address this angle with suitable service level undertakings."

Laurent Lachal, Ovum senior analyst, added that he thought there was nothing particularly groundbreaking from his point of view. "You've been able to consumer and edit Microsoft documents for donkey's years," he said. "It's a good thing to add, but it's not going to make a big difference to the downward trajectory of RIM."

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