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RIM Rolls Out BlackBerry Service Beta for Microsoft Office 365

Research In Motion today initiated an open beta trial of a new BlackBerry service that works with Microsoft Office 365.

RIM's BlackBerry Business Cloud Services will be a zero-cost service for organizations subscribing to certain Microsoft Online Services. It enables access to e-mail, contacts and calendar applications utilizing Microsoft's cloud.

RIM expects the service to become generally available in January. For now, those wanting to test the service can enroll at RIM's beta page here, with some nuances described at this page. RIM notifies applicants when the beta is available. The beta is currently launching in 30 countries.

IT pros wanting to test the beta service can activate it through their Office 365 account after being accepted into RIM's beta test program. The beta signup page states that the service is currently just available to Microsoft Office 365 Enterprise Plan subscribers.

When launched, BlackBerry Business Cloud Services will be available for free to "Office 365 Midsized Businesses and Enterprise plan subscribers," according to RIM's announcement. Microsoft claims that it also will be free to "standalone Exchange Online" customers.

The BlackBerry Enterprise service used to be priced at $10 per user per month. Back in March, Microsoft had first explained that this service would be free for Microsoft Business Productivity Online Service (BPOS) customers using Exchange Online, as well as Office 365 customers.

The cost rollback for BlackBerry users appears in keeping with a general trend. Such connections to Microsoft's cloud were already free of charge for other mobile customers using Microsoft Online Services. The phones just needed to be capable of leveraging Microsoft's Exchange ActiveSync technology. Phones capable of doing that include the Apple iPhone, Nokia E Series or Windows Phone, Microsoft has stated.

Of course, the actually telephony connection enabled by mobile service providers or carriers isn't free. However, BlackBerry Business Cloud Services will work with either consumer or business carrier data plans.

IT pros get access to a console that enables control of BlackBerry devices remotely. The console allows tasks such as provisioning, managing and securing devices, wherever those devices may be located.

Users have self-service online controls. They will be able to reset their device's password, lock the device or even wipe it should their BlackBerry become lost.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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