Another Bridge For Blackberry

iAnywhere Solutions has built another bridge to Blackberry.

The maker of mobile management software released an upgraded version of its Afaria suite that expands support for Research in Motion’s Blackberry devices for e-mail and communications.

It also offers controls through Microsoft’s Systems Management Server (SMS) software.

Afaria 5.4 can now be used to deploy, install and repair Blackberry software applications, as well as track software running on each mobile device.

Network administrators can also issue single-device or global software updates across a company’s Blackberry universe on-the-fly through Microsoft’s SMS management console, Joe Owen, vice president of engineering at iAnywhere told InternetNews.

Previously, Afaria could be used to perform some simple asset management, issue notifications and shutdown or completely erase data from a lost Blackberry device by sending out remote “kill command.”

This latest release of the software offers full control of the mobile systems. “We intend to support the Blackberry platform with the full breadth of our solutions management and data movement technology,” Owen told InternetNews.

The Afaria upgrade, which is available this Friday, also adds full management and security support Windows Mobile 5.0 devices.

The release of a more Blackberry-aware Afaria product comes on the heels of an 11th hour settlement between RIM and patent holding company NTP over patent infringement charges leveled against the BlackBerry maker, which had threatened to shut down the service in the U.S.

Now that those legal clouds over BlackBerry have cleared, third party providers are stepping up. Owen called the timing of the release coincidental. He said the main reason iAnywhere expanded its Blackberry coverage is to provide more services to its current Afaria user base.

Right now, up to 75 percent of these companies use Blackberry devices as part of their mobile solutions, but less than five percent use Afaria to control and manage these systems, he explained. An increased emphasis on Blackberry also couldn’t hurt as iAnywhere looks to get its foot in the door of financial and government customers, heavy users of the Blackberry platform.

Additional features included in the Afaria 5.4 release include an enhanced device monitoring capability, which let administrators set automatic “trigger events” for Blackberry devices, such as automatic backup in the event of a low battery; more detailed asset management, cataloging which network is in use by a mobile device; and an automatic device reformatting ability that maintains policy assignments and settings to avoid lost time following a hard reset or data kill command.

“The focus is on securing data while it is in transit and securing data while it is at rest on a device, using a combination of on-line and synchronized access,” Owen added.

Improvements and upgrades to the Afaria platform usually came every nine to 12 months, he said, with the last one released in June of 2005. This year, however, the company plans back-to-back releases that target evolving technology areas like cell phone data protection and management. This is where Afaria is just scratching the surface with basic management tools. In particular, the company will focus on smart phones based on the Symbian, Palm, Windows and Blackberry operating environments, said Owen.

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