Change In RIM Technology Signals Beginning Of End
Grab the opera glasses, the fat lady is singing. BGR reports that Blackberry 10 (BB10) devices won't work with current Blackberry Enterprise Server (BES) servers. Stick BES with a fork, kids, because if this is accurate, RIM is done. The next version of BES, 5.0.4, is a maintenance update, and after that, RIM is closing the books on BES--and the Blackberry way of life.
Why is it over? RIM can't make QNX work with BES features and security functions. That means all of the new devices RIM has planned to introduce with the release of BB10 can't be used with any current BES installation. And that means that the mobile device management software that provides healthcare companies, security firms, and the U.S. government with secure push email services has reached end of life. RIM isn't going to update the software after version 5.0.4.
What's worse is that current Java-based Blackberry devices won't work with the new version of BES. Enterprises that plan on running both BB10 and BB7 devices together will have to run both BES 5.0.4 and BES NG for next generation. BES NG also doesn't support email sync, calendar sync, or contact sync. Unfortunately, BES NG appears to be really nothing more than a glorified VPN tunnel from the device to the server, which syncs directly with Exchange, Gmail, and, I would suspect, any POP-compatible mail server.
Did I mention that BES NG doesn't support push? Currently, mail is pulled off the mail server. All of the heavy lifting for the sync? It's done on the device end of the equation, which has me really wondering who would want to license the software in the first place.
The BGR article doesn't mention anything about the BES NG MDM console. I have no idea if or how the new MDM will manage devices on the domain, or whether it will provide secure remote wipe, or any kind of device location services. One can hope, but if BES NG really is nothing more than a glorified VPN tunnel, this represents a huge reduction in functionality. At this point, RIM is taking the one thing that distinguishes it from the rest of the smartphone market--that users find of value and that might have saved RIM's bacon--and appears to be leaving it behind.
RIM issued a statement refuting most of the BGR report. But given the challenges RIM has experienced recently--the layoffs it has announced and executed, the talent it has undoubtedly lost both voluntarily and involuntarily, the technology issues it ran into with its delayed Playbook native PIM apps and the delayed release of BB10--it's clear RIM is having issues with technology and platform updates. And given that RIM CEO Thorsten Heins seems willing to give ground in order to appear to be moving the company toward a technology and platform release in a quickly closing window of opportunity, the changes BGR outlines make sense.
The latest news feels like the other shoe has dropped. If it's wrong, I'd love to hear from RIM how BES NG works with BB7 devices, and how it provides the same secure push mail, calendar, and contact sync services we've enjoyed for the last 10 years.
But if it's right, this truly is the beginning of the end for RIM. Your thoughts? Please leave a comment below.
Based in Chicago, Chris is a senior IT consultant. He serves BYTE as a Contributing Editor. Follow Chris on Twitter at @chrisspera and email him at chris@BYTE.com.