RIM improves BlackBerry management, Palm OS support

The latest version of Research In Motion's (RIM's) BlackBerry Enterprise Server software will make it easier for users to connect to their corporate networks and will also improve the security of those connections, RIM said Tuesday at its Wireless Enterprise Symposium.

Corporate users are flocking to BlackBerry devices to access their corporate e-mail servers while traveling or just walking around the office. Shipments of the popular devices are growing faster than any other segment of the PDA (personal digital assistant) market, according to recent research from Gartner Inc.

The new BlackBerry Enterprise Server Version 4.0 will allow IT departments to deploy the devices without having to synchronize them in a cradle and manage policies and updates over the life of the device, RIM said in a release.

Security will also get a boost with the adoption of AES (Advanced Encryption Standard). AES is a powerful 128-bit encryption technology that has been designated by the National Institute of Standards and Technology as a replacement for the current DES (Data Encryption Standard) security.

"This is a roll out that has been a long time in coming," said Alex Slawsby, an analyst with IDC in Framingham. RIM competitor Good Technology Inc.'s latest software supports AES and also allows for cradleless updates and profile management, a key feature that IT managers want in a wireless e-mail product, he said.

"If you're going to manage a large enterprise roll out, it needs to be designed for extremely efficient oversight," Slawsby said. In large, far-flung enterprises, IT departments can't afford to send a staff member around to each BlackBerry user every time a piece of software needs to be updated, he said.

RIM's improved software should help attract customers who had been considering Good Technology's products, Slawsby said. RIM demonstrated the software on Tuesday, and will make it available later this year. Pricing information was not immediately available.

Corporate e-mail will also be available for Palm OS users when BlackBerry Connect for Palm OS arrives in the second half of this year, RIM and PalmSource said.

PalmSource and RIM announced last year that they would bring a version of the BlackBerry software to Palm OS users, and the two companies finalized that agreement Tuesday. Palm OS licensees will be able to include the wireless e-mail software on PDAs later this year.

The Palm OS community has suffered from a reputation that the software isn't suited for enterprise use, Slawsby said. PalmSource's licensing agreements with both RIM and Good Technology will help challenge that perception, he said.

RIM has moved more aggressively in the last year to license its software to other manufacturers such as PalmOne and Nokia as well as operating system providers such as Microsoft and Symbian.

Over the long-term, RIM's best prospects lie with the smart-phone community as the world migrates to those devices, Slawsby said. Right now, PalmOne's Treo 600 is one of the most popular devices within that group, but Symbian and Microsoft-powered devices have the most potential, he said.

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