BlackBerry maker opens up its secure enterprise system to other smartphones

Smartphone owners who want to use their personal phones at work can now pick whether it's a BlackBerry, iPhone or Android device.

TORONTO – Smartphone owners who want to use their personal phones at work can now pick whether it’s a BlackBerry, iPhone or Android device.

Research In Motion made the latest update to its secure enterprise service available for download to IT professionals on Wednesday, which it said gives IT departments the flexibility to accommodate a growing trend of bring-your-own-device in workplaces.

“It’s a single platform, from an IT perspective, that can manage the full suite of mobility devices they may need to support inside of their organization,” said Jeff Holleran, senior director of enterprise product management of RIM in a recent interview.

The move comes as competition heats up for the highly lucrative corporate smartphone market, which has largely been a stronghold for RIM for years, but other players in the industry are making their own plans.

RIM chief executive Thorsten Heins has said more than 90 per cent of Fortune 500 companies deploy BlackBerry in their enterprise system.

However, the company has lost market share to Apple Computer Inc. (Nasdaq:AAPL), whose iPhone smartphone and iPad tablet use Apple’s iOS operating systems, and devices using Google’s Android operating system.

On Tuesday, an investment wing of Samsung Group — the leading Android smartphone maker — said it was making a “strategic investment” in the enterprise market. It picked up a stake in Toronto-based Fixmo Inc., a software maker that specializes in data and device security.

Fixmo has partnered with the U.S. National Security Agency to develop technology like its SafeZone encrypted email technology and Sentinel, which monitors mobile phone security. The company is home to several former RIM employees, including chief marketing officer Tyler Lessard.

Details on how much Samsung invested in the company were not disclosed, though Fixmo has said it is a “small equity stake.”

The announcements come as RIM prepares to unveil its new BlackBerry smartphones and operating system on Jan. 30. The company hopes to attract a large set of the business market with features like its BlackBerry Balance technology, which allows one phone to operate as both a business and personal device entirely separate from each other.

But the move to open up its enterprise service also protects RIM from the possibility that its new devices could be considered a sales flop. With a system that invites both the Apple and Android operating systems into the fray it could continue to operate no matter the outcome of the new product launch.

The enterprise management system, called BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10, will also allow corporations to manage and remotely install apps for their employees through the BlackBerry World app store.