It's so rare these days to hear any good news about the BlackBerry ecosystem. As one of my colleagues put it in conversation yesterday, RIM seems to be circling the drain on its way out, potentially leaving space in the mobile market for Microsoft's Windows Phone to assume third place by default. But today brings some good news from RIM for BlackBerry users.
RIM announced the public beta of BlackBerry Business Cloud Services for Microsoft Office 365. What this means is that if you're using, or planning to move to, Office 365, you'll now be able to continue using your BlackBerry devices with that service as well. RIM will host the service (which I know will give some businesses shivers, considering the recent BlackBerry outage), and it will feature a web-based console to allow administration of BlackBerry devices from anywhere.
BlackBerry Business Cloud Services will let BlackBerry users whose accounts reside on Office 365 have access to all the mail and calendar information they've come to expect. The service also includes the BlackBerry Balance feature, which was introduced earlier this year and let's administrators apply policy controls to segregate work and personal data on BlackBerry smartphones.
Although BlackBerry phones might be plummeting in mindshare and usage among consumers, many businesses still rely on them—and with good reasons. They still offer an unmatched email experience with excellent administrative control and security. Which is why this collaboration with Microsoft and Office 365 could be a good move all around.
You can read more about BlackBerry Business Cloud Services on RIM's website. To get into the current public beta, you have to have an Office 365 account, but it's sufficient to sign up for a trial account. Remember, this is a beta, which means you certainly don't want to be rolling it out to your production environment; however, participating does give you the chance to give RIM your feedback and shape the features and experience of the final product.