RIM Confirms Cloud Services, Won’t Make BlackBerry Messenger Cross Platform

The Waterloo-based maker of the BlackBerry smartphone, Research In Motion (RIM), has announced the company plans to offer new cloud-based services.

The company is in the process of expanding the capabilities of its BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) to offer a cloud-based version, and to allow partners to offer their own customized BES services.

 Research In Motion VP Pete Devenyi said in an interview the company wouldn’t be offering a complete feature set of services in cloud versions, rather, leaving partners to tailor their own services with different features. For example, not every mail service provider would be supported directly from hosted cloud-based BlackBerry servers from RIM, leaving partners to configure support for different providers, even though the existing infrastructure of BES is capable of handling many different service providers.

Mr. Devenyi went on to say that partners could even provide their own in house built services, such as e-mail services, that could be integrated with their cloud-based BlackBerry Enterprise Server offerings.

Analysts continue to have pessimistic views on the company’s future, a trend that has put significant downward pressure on the company’s stock over the last year.

The pessimism stems from the company’s now dated BlackBerry operating system that fails to provide the same level of user experience, largely for the consumer segment, as experienced with competing mobile platforms such as both Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android mobile operating systems.

In 2009, Apple’s iOS mobile operating system held 14-percent market share after the company’s worldwide market share almost doubled from 2008.

In that same time period, Research In Motion’s BlackBerry OS held 20-percent market share, according to data published by the industry research firm Gartner.

Fast forward to the most recent available data, RIM’s OS market share has declined to 15-percent, with Apple overtaking RIM with 17-percent, according to Gartner.

The biggest mover in the mobile industry is Google, who held only 4-percent market share with its Android OS, compared to now holding 25-percent market share, more than both Apple and RIM.

As firms decrease expenditures given the economic downturn, IT departments have shifted policies by starting to allow more employees to use their personal phones for work. Additionally, as competing operating systems now offer push notifications, including e-mail and instant messaging, arguably on par with BlackBerry offerings, the result has been more firms (especially smaller ones) starting to phase out costly BlackBerry deployment.

RIM is also facing increasing pressure from foreign governments who want access to encrypted messages that pass through Canadian-based servers, for national security reasons. Companies use BlackBerry devices to communicate securely, but as RIM plans to provide some access to governments to avoid nationwide blackouts, that feeling of security could be compromised.

The downward trend in RIM market share is forcing the company to re-consider its business strategy, prompting RIM VIP Pete Devenyl to say during an interview, “[BlackBerry is] not going to be the only device…Do those corporations have to manage those devices differently or is there the possibility that RIM might extend capabilities to make it easier for those corporations to manage those devices as well.”

The company did not comment on a more specific time frame for a release on either new software tools or the cloud-based services.

A RIM employee familiar with the matter who spoke to us on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to disclose information, said RIM has no plans to make BlackBerry Messenger cross platform, rather, the company would release new software for other mobile platforms that would allow IT managers to implement BlackBerry e-mail and other administrative IT tasks such as pushing OTA updates and monitoring, among other currently available administrative tasks found in BES.

RIM is planning to phase out the current BlackBerry OS with the recently acquired QNX operating system, the same operating system used to power RIM’s PlayBook tablet computer that is expected to debut mid March.

The RIM stock (TSE:RIM) is trading up about 10 basis points to $64.90 per share on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSE) with just less than an hour until the closing bell.

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Tahir holds a Bachelor Commerce Finance degree from Ryerson University in Toronto. He is planning to purse an MBA in Finance. Write to [email protected]
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