Research In Motion will this week update its BlackBerry Enterprise Server platform with corporate instant messaging, enhanced administration capabilities, and developer tools that make it easier for firms to build their own links between BlackBerry handhelds and enterprise applications.
BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) 4.1, available from the end of March, adds a number of enhancements to RIM’s corporate mobile email platform, but the most significant are improved admin tools, Enterprise Instant Messaging, and the new Mobile Data System for linking BlackBerry devices with Web services.
With Enterprise Instant Messaging, BlackBerry customers are effectively getting IM for free. “It’s just another service running on the server, and the beauty of the BlackBerry architecture is that you donâ€™t need to recall the handhelds or issue new ones â€“ it gets pushed out to the devices users already have,” said RIM marketing director David Wilmering.
The service allows for threaded chat sessions and provides presence information. It can also link to existing corporate IM systems such as Lotus Sametime, Novell GroupWise Messenger and Microsoft’s Live Communications Server or Windows Messenger.
RIM’s new role-based administration allows for less critical tasks to be performed by junior IT staff, according to Wilmering. This spreads the admin burden, which can prove to be a barrier when scaling up BlackBerry deployments in large organisations.
“There are now five levels from junior help desk operator up to security administrator, and the junior guys can handle simple things like blocking devices reported as lost,” Wilmering said. BlackBerry users can also now be managed in groups, so that a new member of a company’s sales team automatically gets access to the same applications and resources as their colleagues.
The Mobile Data System in BES 4.1 provides a developer environment to let firms link BlackBerry handhelds with web-based enterprise applications.
“We thought ‘what if we take these apps and make it drag-and-drop easy to build a link to the BlackBerry Enterprise Server?’,” Wilmering said.
This feature requires a runtime on each BlackBerry handheld, but this can be pushed out the device along with the client-side user interface once the application is published to the BlackBerry Server, according to RIM.
Other enhancements in BES 4.1 include improved viewers for Office applications, allowing users to see thumbnails of Powerpoint slides alongside the text from their BlackBerry screen, for example.