RIM Unveils Beta for Microsoft Office 365 BlackBerry Service
Research In Motion today began an open beta trial of a new service for BlackBerry users that works with Microsoft Office 365.
RIM's BlackBerry Business Cloud Services will be a no-cost service for organizations subscribing to certain Microsoft Online Services. It provides access to e-mail, contacts, and calendar applications utilizing Microsoft's cloud.
RIM expects the service to be generally available in January. For now, those who wish to test the service can enroll at RIM's beta page, with some nuances described here. RIM notifies applicants when the beta is available; it is currently launching in 30 countries.
IT pros can activate the beta service through their Office 365 account after being accepted into RIM's beta test program. The beta signup page states that the service is currently available only to Microsoft Office 365 Enterprise Plan subscribers.
When launched, BlackBerry Business Cloud Services will be available for free to "Office 365 Midsized Businesses and Enterprise plan subscribers," according to RIM's announcement. Microsoft says that it also will be free to "standalone Exchange Online" customers.
The BlackBerry Enterprise service used to be priced at $10 per user per month. In March, Microsoft explained that this service would be free for Microsoft Business Productivity Online Service (BPOS) customers using Exchange Online as well as Office 365 customers.
The cost rollback for BlackBerry users appears in keeping with a general trend. Such connections to Microsoft's cloud were already free of charge for other mobile customers using Microsoft Online Services. The phones need to be capable of leveraging Microsoft's Exchange ActiveSync technology. Phones capable of doing that include the Apple iPhone, Nokia E Series or Windows Phone, Microsoft has stated.
Of course, the actually telephony connection enabled by mobile service providers or carriers isn't free. However, BlackBerry Business Cloud Services will work with either consumer- or business-carrier data plans.
IT pros get access to a console that enables control of BlackBerry devices remotely. The console allows tasks such as provisioning, managing and securing devices, wherever those devices may be located.
Users have self-service online controls. They will be able to reset their device's password, lock the device, or wipe it should their BlackBerry become lost.
Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.