Great news, Office 365 fans!
Earlier this morning--very early for your humble blogger based here in Redmond, WA--Research in Motion (RIM) announced that an Open Beta (a/k/a public beta) has been launched for their new BlackBerry Business Cloud Services for Microsoft Office 365.
Can I get a “Woo-hoo!”?
This is great news for you, as I suspect you may have customers currently interested in moving to our cloud for business productivity yet they were curious about how they can get BlackBerry to access email, calendar, contacts, etc. with Office 365.
As we shared back in March, RIM and Microsoft have been working together to deliver a new type of services offering, that moved the “connective tissue” between Exchange Online and the world of BlackBerry wireless synchronization to a new RIM-hosted cloud service.
That new RIM-hosted cloud service is called RIM BlackBerry Business Cloud Services (or RIM BBCS to keep things simple). BBCS is “is available at no additional cost to current enterprise subscribers of the Office 365 suite or standalone Exchange Online. The service works with BlackBerry smartphones on business or consumer data plans. The service offers BlackBerry access to Microsoft Exchange Online email, calendar, and contacts. And IT administrators can provision, manage, and secure their organization’s BlackBerry phones from a convenient web-based console.”
As the partner guy, I am pretty excited about the approach RIM has taken. It certainly serves as a great role model for other partners that wish to deliver value add enhancements to Office 365 while preserving the cost and business agility benefits the cloud offers. More specifically, RIM is delivering BlackBerry Enterprise Server capabilities without having to have those servers installed in our datacenter. Instead, RIM is tapping into the scale and cost efficiencies the cloud enables and has built this new service utilizing familiar underlying RIM technology enhanced to connect via “cloud-ready” interfaces into Exchange Online (i.e., Exchange Web Services) to extend Exchange Online goodness to BlackBerry smartphones.
Now, you can find more info about this new service by visiting our Microsoft Office 365 Blog and the new Office 365 Wiki article we posted right after the RIM open beta announcement. There’s also a new comparison chart RIM posted to help you understand how the feature set of BBCS stacks up to BES, BES Express or just good ol’ BlackBerry service from your Wireless Provider.
As for your call to action, it’s pretty simple: If you have customers evaluating Office 365 (or Exchange Online) and seeking guidance around how BlackBerry fits into our mobility story, just point them to http://www.blackberry.com/cloudservices to learn more about BBCS.
You can even let them kick the tires (and I encourage you to do the same) by signing up for an Office 365 trial (NOTE: This needs to be an Enterprise Plan Microsoft Office 365 Trial (Plan E3)) and enabling the service under “Setting up email on mobile phones” in the Admin console (see right for a screenshot from my tenant).
And, you should also have your customers sign-up for the BlackBerry Beta Zone to ensure they get access to all of the additional resources RIM is providing, and perhaps more importantly, your customers can provide valuable feedback into RIM on how to get this from open beta to general availability.
Stay tuned for more details as we progress from today’s open beta (which is available in “over 30 countries” starting today) to the expected general availability milestone planned for January 2012.
Ian Group Product Manager Exchange Partner Marketing