RIM seeks to bring Balance to the phone, split work from play on BlackBerry

Reuters is reporting that RIM will deliver a way to keep work stuff on the workbench and fun stuff in the sandbox on BlackBerrys. The system is called BlackBerry Balance and it’s designed to keep RIM at the top of the enterprise smartphone market while catering to the rapidly growing consumer market.

The concept is pretty straightforward. Per Jeff McDowell, RIM’s senior vice-president for business and platform marketing:


“We just wanted to create an innovative solution that allows enterprises to manage the corporate data side while at the same time give their employees the freedom to use Facebook and browse the Web and get their Internet email at the same time”

In other words, you can have your corporate stuff on one side of the device, such as business email handled by BlackBerry Enterprise Server, and your personal stuff, like Facebook and Twitter, on another side without that data intermingling. Corporate IT can continue to maintain the business end as usual, while the user is free to do whatever else without risking security. It will also be included on the BlackBerry Playbook.

Sounds like a reasonable idea, but I don’t think it’s going to prove to be much of a hedge against users defecting to iPhone and Android. One of the problems for RIM cited in the article is that many corporations are allowing employees to use their own smartphones for work. That often saves the company money since the worker is picking up the tab for the device and service, so there’s little financial gain to make workers switch to company-issued BlackBerrys. IT costs may come down, but IT support often isn’t an issue since so many companies already rely on Microsoft Exchange Server for non-BlackBerry email, which works fine with every other smartphone. BlackBerry Balance will give corporations a more convincing argument to make workers use BlackBerrys, but it’s already pretty easy to force workers to use company-mandated equipment. Seems like a necessary move by RIM to placate their existing corporate customers, but it does not strike me as a major user-base rebuilding move.