BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion's (RIM) first entry into the fiercely competitive tablet market, the PlayBook, wasn't exactly well-received by the masses when it was released last April. A variety of factors contributed to the lukewarm reaction, but the PlayBook's lack of a dedicated e-mail client and native personal information management (PIM) apps, such as a calendar and contacts, were the focus of the negativity. The PlayBook also did not connect to corporate BlackBerry Enterprise Servers (BES), making it less than ideal for businesspeople.
Yesterday, RIM shored up some of these holes in its PlayBook software with the much-anticipated release of PlayBook OS 2.0. PlayBook users now have native e-mail and PIM, and the tablets can be connected to Microsoft Exchange servers for access to corporate mail, contacts and calendar--though not via BES. What follows is a quick list of facts that all BlackBerry and IT managers who are responsible for RIM smartphones and tablets should know about the new PlayBook 2.0 software.
1) BlackBerry PlayBook 2.0 Native E-Mail, PIM Apps
With the PlayBook OS update, corporate BlackBerry PlayBook users can now securely connect to their organizations' Microsoft Exchange Servers for access to Outlook e-mail, contacts and calendar. The native applications will work over a BlackBerry smartphone's wireless connection if the tablets and handheld are "Bridged" using the BlackBerry Bridge app, so Wi-Fi isn't necessary to access native e-mail and PIM. However, the PlayBook doesn't connect to Exchange via BES, like the current crop of BlackBerry smartphones. Instead, the PlayBook supports Microsoft ActiveSync for Exchange access.
This new support is notable because RIM has traditionally avoided ActiveSync like the plague, in an attempt to build loyalty around its BES software. And because PlayBooks don't connect to BES, IT managers cannot use BES software to secure and manage them. To address this new need for tablet management options, and for security and management features for additional mobile platforms including iOS and Android, RIM has released BlackBerry Mobile Fusion.
BlackBerry Mobile Fusion is a software tool that works in conjunction with the latest version of BES to help IT remotely manage PlayBook, iPhones, iPads and Android smartphones and tablets, via a Web-based Mobile Fusion Studio console. And RIM yesterday released the initial version of BlackBerry Mobile Fusion, which currently only works with the PlayBook and not iOS or Android devices. (Interested parties can get a 90-day free trial for up to 500 users for a limited time. And the full version of Mobile Fusion with iOS and Android support is expected in late March.)
The BlackBerry Device Service component of Mobile Fusion Studio allows IT to manage PlayBook tablets and apply "key settings and IT policies" to PlayBooks remotely after admins associate the tablets to specific users. (That association must be made via a USB connection to a PC with RIM's BlackBerry Web Desktop Manager software installed, according to RIM.)
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