Remotely updating BlackBerries

Research In Motion Ltd. will unhook its handheld devices from their cradles for good when it releases its BlackBerry Enterprise Server v4.0 in the fall.

A central element of the new version will be the ability for information technology managers to provision and update software on handheld devices wirelessly from a central console, rather than users having to drop their BlackBerry devices into a cradle connected to desktop or laptop PCs.

Instead of IT administrators having hand out each device separately to users, they'll now be able to activate devices by simply passing out passwords to individual users over the phone. Once users key in the password, their devices are automatically provided with encryption keys, user manuals, applications and other items.

"It enables [IT administrators] to have full asset control and management of all [RIM] handheld devices," said Alan Panzenik, director of RIM's BlackBerry Solutions Group.

From now on, a cradle will only be needed to recharge the handheld device, he added.

BES v4.0 will also significantly boost control of security for the handheld devices since administrators will now be able to extend different profiles to individual handsets, Panzenik said.

As well being able to update security and other software wirelessly from a central console, administrators will also be able to determine which type of third-party applications users will be required to have, can optionally have and cannot have on their handheld devices.

Given that the handheld devices will be in an "always on" mode, administrators will have better control of them than with laptop computers, which can only be updated when users connect to the network, Panzenik said.

BES v4.0 will add support for Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) with BlackBerry server products.

It will also provide Javascript support for Web browser dynamic content management and input validation.

RIM also said an agreement has been inked with PalmSource Inc. to extend BlackBerry messaging functionality to handheld devices using the Palm OS operating system.

Panzenik said RIM officials are working to bring devices that run Palm OS and other operating systems BlackBerry connects to also under the control of BES v4.0 so that administrators can control all wireless handheld devices within a single environment.

The company is hoping to introduce that capability shortly after the fall release of BES v4.0, he said.

Brian Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore. He can be reached at hullite@mindspring.com.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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