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RIM logo on a BlackBerry (MARK BLINCH)
RIM logo on a BlackBerry (MARK BLINCH)

RIM eyes cloud, keep servers exclusive Add to ...

Research In Motion has big plans to make better use of its nerve centre computers but will not be opening its servers to non-BlackBerry devices any time soon, a senior executive said on Wednesday.

The company, whose BlackBerry smartphones remain the default device a company gives its workforce for mobile communications, is confident it has an edge even as companies increasingly allow workers to bring in rival products.

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RIM is due to launch its PlayBook tablet computer either this month or next, and expects strong adoption from companies already accustomed to its smartphones.

"Our strength lies in that enterprises want to get more mobile ... we're pure in that pursuit," said Jim Tobin, RIM's senior vice-president for software and business services.

RIM's devices are favoured in offices in part because of the on-site BlackBerry Enterprise Servers that connect directly to back-end systems for corporate e-mail and other data, and manage who gets to see it when out of the office.

Some critics question whether the Canadian company would be better served by turning the servers into generic managers that also handle Apple's iPhones and iPads and a slew of devices using Google's Android software.

"Our answer right now is we don't need to do that," Tobin said in an interview.

"That doesn't close the door to later bridging out into other things, but it's not the right focus for us right now."

Instead, Tobin said RIM will soon offer cloud-based services equal to what it offers via on-site servers and tightly integrated with Microsoft's own cloud-based effort, Office 365. Cloud computing broadly refers to services hosted remotely in data centres reached via the Internet.

"We have the physical capacity to handle cloud services," Tobin said, referring to existing RIM data centers which move some 15 million gigabytes of BlackBerry traffic a month.

The cloud comments echo similar sentiments from Hewlett-Packard's Leo Apotheker, who this week made it the centerpiece of his vision for the computer company. HP plans to launch its WebOS-based TouchPad tablet in June.

RIM's Tobin said the PlayBook's video conferencing ability was built using open standards that should be able to work with other platforms, but he declined to say whether a PlayBook user would be able to interact with someone using either a consumer product like Skype or Google's Gchat, or corporate software from the likes of Cisco and Microsoft.

"We're designing it in ways that make interoperability straightforward, but it takes two parties to dance on that," he said.

RIM has not disclosed a specific launch date or exact pricing for the PlayBook, which is expected to be available by April.

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