Research In Motion has taken a step that many in the industry thought the company would not, could not take. RIM announced today that it will release Mobile Fusion, an enterprise-security grade mobile device management suite akin to its BlackBerry Enterprise Server, for the iPhone and Android platforms.

This was a necessary move for RIM. Yet, it has lost the first mover's advantage. The BES system was the first of its kinds and became the default system for enterprise mobility. That era is beginning to pass as more employees bring iPhones and Android to work. RIM will look to monetize off that trend, but the company's edge has been lost.

Mobile Fusion will provide MDM alongside the BES in enterprise and government IT departments. Fundamentally, it is nothing that the industry has not already seen before. Here is the list of functions for supported devices:

  • Asset management
  • Configuration management
  • Security and policy definition and management
  • Secure and protect lost or stolen devices (remote lock, wipe)
  • User- and group-based administration
  • Multiple device per user capable
  • Application and software management
  • Connectivity management (Wi-Fi®, VPN, certificate)
  • Centralized console
  • High scalability

If these product capabilities sound familiar, it is because there is a vibrant ecosystem that has been built around MDM services that do exactly the same thing. Companies like BoxTone & 3 Laws Of Mobility (a Motorola subsidiary), Good Technology, Zenprise, Symantec, McAfee, Sybase (which partners with Samsung), Fixmo (that got a huge Series C round of funding yesterday), Airwatch and others have all come out with BES-style MDM services in the last year or so focused on delivering security to enterprise smartphones.

The problem comes down to the fact that enterprises no longer have to rely on BlackBerry for security. RIM's data encryption technology on BlackBerry handsets is still at the forefront of the pack and remains attractive to enterprises but there is no shortage of options for companies looking for solutions.

Here is a breakdown of MDM services from Gartner in April. It does not include 3LM, which launched out of public beta in October with a partnership with BoxTone at CTIA Enterprise and Apps.

RIM is in a tricky position here. Mobile Fusion is a product where the company is damned if it does, damned if it doesn't. Either way, RIM appears to be damned. In talking with analysts over the course of the year, the general consensus on RIM that it would return from whence it came, a niche enterprise smartphone manufacturer. That was as long as it had the proprietary functions of BES attached to BlackBerry devices. Come Mobile Fusion in March, that is no longer going to be the case.

So, where does RIM go from here? It is losing consumer market share by the fist load and now is making an effort to monetize on that loss in the enterprise market. What it all comes down to for RIM is the wait and see. Wait for BBX to come out next year, hope that it sparkles and gain back consumer (hence, enterprise) market share.