RIM Connects BlackBerry To Office 365

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Research in Motion has added support for Microsoft Office 365 to its BlackBerry handsets

Research in Motion (RIM) continues its fightback against its critics with the announcement of a cloud-based service that will connect its BlackBerry smartphones to Microsoft’s cloud-based productivity suite, Office 365.

The announcement by the Canadian handset giant, of its BlackBerry Business Cloud Services for Microsoft Office 365, will allow organisations to self-manage their BlackBerry deployments in the cloud.

The RIM-hosted BlackBerry Business Cloud Services is geared towards mid-sized businesses and enterprises. The open beta for the service has today been launched in over 30 countries.

Mobile Cloud Suite

RIM is touting the service as suitable for both businesses and governments.

“BlackBerry Business Cloud Services is an easy and cost-effective way for businesses and government agencies to extend Microsoft Office 365 to BlackBerry smartphones and manage the deployment in the cloud,” said RIM VP Alan Panezic.

“We have been working together with Microsoft and select customers through an early access program and we are pleased to now launch an open beta for the service,” he said.

BlackBerry users will be able to access Microsoft Exchange Online email, calendar and organiser data from their handsets. And to ease admin headaches, a web-based console is provided for administrators to provision, manage and secure BlackBerry smartphones from anywhere.

To ensure security, users can reset a smartphone password or remotely lock or wipe a smartphone in the event of loss or theft.

“BlackBerry Business Cloud Services will help accelerate how BlackBerry customers can realise the full benefits of the best productivity experience across the PC, browser and phone with Microsoft Office 365,” said Julia White, Senior Director of Microsoft’s Exchange Product Management Group.

“This new service delivers valuable enhancements to Office 365 while preserving the cost and business agility benefits the cloud offers to organisations of all sizes,” she added.

Microsoft Office 365 customers can sign up for the BlackBerry Business Cloud Services beta here.

Restoring Confidence

The product announcement comes at a time when RIM looking to shore up enterprise confidence in the BlackBerry platform.

This confidence was rocked earlier this month when the BlackBerry platform was badly affected by service outages, which the company blamed on a “core switch failure” within its infrastructure.

The failure initially affected half of BlackBerry’s 70 millions users worldwide, mostly in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA). But then the outages also spread to North America. It eventually took RIM four days to fully recover its service.

RIM’s co-CEO Mike Lazaridis produced this short YouTube video in which he publicly apologised for the outages and said that RIM would work hard to regain customers’ trust following the incident. And the company has offered free apps to users affected by the outage.

But a survey of more than 1,000 BlackBerry customers by shopping comparison website Kelkoo, taken before the recent service outages, revealed that that one in five users are considering dumping their BlackBerrys and opting for another handset supplier.

Perhaps more serious for the company is the fact that RIM is also battling a shrinking market share. In response RIM is touting its forthcoming QNX-based smartphones, that will run the BBX operation system. This, it hopes, will put the platform on a more competitive footing with the likes of Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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