BlackBerry Torch Offers New Tools for IT

It’s a brave new world of enterprise mobility, one in which it is necessary to win the hearts and minds of consumer users in order to thrive in the business environment. With the introduction of the BlackBerry Torch 9800 and its new BlackBerry OS6, Research In Motion (RIM) made clear that it understands this new dynamic. Even though BlackBerry devices remain the darlings of enterprise mobility in North America, contenders such as iPhone and Droid have been making steady inroads, driven largely by worker demand to connect their personal devices to corporate email and business applications.

The “big reveal” of the BlackBerry Torch – RIM’s first capacitive touchscreen device with a slide-out keyboard – at an event in New York City on August 3 focused heavily on the consumer-friendly universal search, media and social networking capabilities of the device and its new operating system. But the device readily meets the needs of business users who are increasingly looking to marry work and personal lives into a single device, while its new operating system gives IT new levels of granularity into how users profile and permissions are set up.

The BlackBerry Torch 9800 is available for sale August 12, 2010, via AT&T for $199 with a two-year contract plus data plan. The new BlackBerry OS 6 that debuts on the Torch is also designed to run on select BlackBerry devices that are already in market. Subject to carrier certifications in the months ahead, the new OS 6 is expected to be available for the BlackBerry Bold 9700, BlackBerry Bold 9650 and BlackBerry Pearl 3G, as well as future BlackBerry smart phones.

With OS 6, RIM enhances the capabilities of IT to selectively lock down features of the smart phone without changing the user’s personal profile. For example, IT can choose not to allow users to copy and paste information from a business application into a consumer application, Andrew Bocking, VP Handheld Software Product Management, tells CIO Insight.

“It’s like a virtual firewall for IT,” says Bocking. “It gives IT the plumbing to manage security, while being transparent to the end user.” In recognition of the growing trend of permitting employee-liable smart phones in the enterprise, Bocking also notes that when a Torch user departs an organization, IT will have the ability to wipe only the business features, while leaving the user’s personal data intact. “It gives IT the granular level of control that they need,” Bocking says.

BlackBerry OS 6 offers some nifty new options for advanced applications, but David Yach, CTO Software with RIM, notes that “Apps that already exist for 5.0 or earlier [operating systems] will continue to run on BlackBerry 6, so people don’t lose investment in current apps.”

This is of particular importance for enterprises that may be using core business applications based on the earlier OS. Jung Pyon, Director of Product Management for RIM, notes that longstanding and popular BlackBerry enterprise applications will need to undergo a verification process to make sure they’re compatible. “There may be things that need to be tweaked” to accommodate the Torch’s 3.2-inch touchscreen, says Pyon. “We’re going through the verification process right now to make sure that there are no issues with our most-used enterprise apps,” he adds. The goal, Pyon says, is to have the largest possible number of enterprise apps verified by next week’s launch date.

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