TORONTO Research In Motion aims to keep its dominance of the corporate smartphone market by enabling the BlackBerry to segregate a user's personal data from work-related emails and other applications sponsored by employers.
A senior RIM executive says the company would soon introduce software that would effectively give users two phones in one. It's part of RIM's strategy to arrest a steady erosion of its leadership in the corporate segment as Apple's iPhone and other consumer-friendly devices make inroads.
Many corporations are now allowing employees to use their own smartphones at work, forcing IT departments to manage confidential information on the iPhone and devices running on Google's Android operating system.
But those devices are not equipped with the security and system features that have long given the BlackBerry an edge among corporations and other organizations that put a high value on confidentiality and control.
"There are two fundamental use cases on the smartphone - enterprise and personal. The problem is that they are conflicting," said Jeff McDowell, RIM's senior vice-president for business and platform marketing.
RIM's solution is software called BlackBerry Balance, which will allow corporate IT departments to retain control over data such as business-related email sent via a BlackBerry Enterprise Server, or BES, while keeping the Web browser and an employee's social networking and photographs separate.
EXPECTED WITHIN TWO MONTHS
"We just wanted to create an innovative solution that allows enterprises to manage the corporate data side while at the same time give their employees the freedom to use Facebook and browse the Web and get their Internet email at the same time," McDowell said in an interview late on Friday.
He said carriers were now testing Balance and it should be available in North America within two months.
Balance will also be available on the PlayBook, RIM's yet-to-launch tablet computer. RIM has not said it will host BES functionality on the PlayBook, but McDowell said that is part of their longer-term plans.
Without direct access to the enterprise server, a user will need to bridge the PlayBook to an existing BlackBerry to access corporate email, address book and calendar functions.
"The plan is to extend it - that's all roadmap items," he said, adding that analyst concerns about the tablet's battery life are unfounded.
"It's going to be equal or greater than the iPad with smaller battery size," he said.
RIM expects to have some 4,000 third-party apps available for the PlayBook's launch, due by March, McDowell said.
RIM Is also planning to incorporate Microsoft's Sharepoint collaborative platform, which is based on its Office suite of products, and allow a single enterprise server to be used by multiple corporations.
(Editing by Frank McGurty)