Research In Motion announced updates to the BlackBerry platform today. What will IT admins and users get out of the deal? According to RIM, admins get easier management, better security, and better application support. Users get more messaging and collaboration features. Here's the real story.RIM is bringing some new features to the table that are sure to be appreciated by admin and user alike. Let's take a look at what the updates really are.
RIM is enhancing the usability of the messaging capabilities of its BlackBerrys in a big way. First, it is expanding search capabilities on BlackBerry devices. Instead of being limited to searching for e-mails stored locally on the phone, users now can also search messages stored on the e-mail server. This is great. BlackBerrys store a lot of e-mails, but there's always an instance when the one you need is no longer on your device. That will no longer be an issue.
Second, users can now find out when their colleagues are available for meetings before sending them meeting invites. Another time-saving step.
Third, the inbox itself is being spruced up and can now render HTML and Rich Text messages, showing the full content, including fonts, colors, images, bullets, etc. This is a nice step. When I was a BlackBerry user, I was often frustrated by the simplified version of e-mails that appeared on my device. Being able to see e-mails in their original format as they were intended will make reading it more appealing. Of course, it will also probably gum up device memory and slow down syncing speeds.
RIM also is adding presence features so users can communicate with coworkers easier. Those with Microsoft Live Communications or IBM Lotus Sametime servers back at the office will see better address book integration, and support for instant messaging features such as click to call and converting IM chats into calls. RIM doesn't say if it is enabling better integration with Yahoo Instant Messenger or AIM, so I assume this still applies to BlackBerry's lacking messenger program. The coup de gras, of course, is that BlackBerrys will now support what it calls "advanced" emoticons. I don't know about you, but I just won't buy a smartphone that can't properly display little smiley faces in my messages.
Lastly, RIM is incorporating DataViz's Documents To Go software into the devices so users can download and edit Microsoft Office documents on their devices. Neat-o.
Security, Management, Etc.
RIM isn't leaving admins out in the cold. They also get a host of new features, including better security and improved management. Let's take a quick look.
On the security side of the equation, RIM is offering up a James Bondian feature: the ability to view PGP and S/MIME encrypted messages on their devices, because encryption is so cool. Possibly taking the fun out of Google Maps' My Location feature, admins will be able to control which applications can access the device's GPS functionality. This means they can lock down the GPS on the devices and prevent you from finding accurate directions to your next appointment. RIM also is providing admins with more control over the Bluetooth module in BlackBerrys. They will have the ability to enable or disable certain Bluetooth profiles, meaning they can turn off file sharing, but still allow you to connect to a Bluetooth headset.
As far as management is concerned, the biggest new features include a Web desktop manager. This is a device management console that is browser based, rather than sitting on a desktop or laptop somewhere. This will allow admins to help users update their devices through any browser-equipped computer (which is pretty much all of them). RIM has also added over-the-air device software upgrades into the mix. Having the ability to update or patch devices over the air can prevent hassles and save time when a device is in need of some TLC while out in the field.
So there you have it. RIM said it will be rolling out these new upgrades during the course of the first half of the year.