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RIM breaks from BlackBerry-only focus

Research in Motion co-CEO Mike Lazaridis shows off the Playbook tablet on the sidelines of the D: Dive Into Mobile conference.
RIM won't just be supporting BlackBerry devices any more--iOS and Android will get the BlackBerry treatment soon. Tom Krazit/CNET

Research in Motion unveiled an expanded service that allows it to support both iOS and Android smartphones and tablets--a break from the company's previous BlackBerry-only focus.

RIM introduced today BlackBerry Mobile Fusion, a mobile device management service that takes advantage of the BlackBerry Enterprise Server technology to track and monitor different phones and tablets.

With BlackBerry Mobile Fusion, RIM is attempting to preserve its hold over the business customer even as more of them leave the BlackBerry fold for other flashier devices. Mobile Fusion allows RIM to play a role in companies and government agencies, even if its BlackBerrys are no longer used. For RIM, it also represents a fundamentally different view of the mobile world from only a few years ago, when it would have never considered opening up its core service to other platforms.

The Mobile Fusion service gives RIM an in on the bring your own device trend that's starting to pick up momentum with businesses. Increasingly, corporate IT departments are letting their employees use whatever smartphone they want. A number of companies have jumped into the business of supporting that trend.

RIM is taking advantage of one of its core assets: the strength of its BlackBerry Enterprise Server. For all of the knocks that its phones receive, its BlackBerry service remains the most efficient at delivering e-mails in a secure and speedy manner. That's particularly important with as employee-owned phones increasingly run confidential corporate applications and data.

RIM said it is in early tests with select business customers, and will have a wider trial with more customers in January, with planned general availability in March.

The services include standard management tools including the ability to remotely lock or wipe the phone, manage a phone's secure wireless connection, and selectively providing or denying access to certain corporate data.

RIM said Mobile Fusion will be able to use the capabilities on BlackBerry Enterprise Server 5.0.3. It added there are additional features for BlackBerry smartphones and PlayBook tablets.

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