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RIM forges ahead on software that works with other devices

Research In Motion is launching an updated version of its software that allows businesses and government departments to handle a variety of smartphones in addition to BlackBerrys.

VALENTIN FLAURAUD/REUTERS

Research In Motion Ltd. is launching an updated version of its software that allows businesses and government departments to handle a variety of smartphones in addition to BlackBerrys, even as the so-called mobile device management industry showed signs that it was becoming increasingly competitive.

The release on Wednesday of BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10, a version of the software that RIM has provided for years, will also allow RIM's IT department customers to handle the upcoming BlackBerry 10 smartphones, which are being launched on Jan. 30, as well as Apple Inc.'s iPhones and devices running Google Inc.'s Android operating system.

It also marks a return to the name by which many in the telecommunications industry know RIM's software: BlackBerry Enterprise Service, or BES, which now replaces the BlackBerry "Mobile Fusion" branding that RIM used when it first began offering the ability to handle other phones in 2011. RIM, of course, has lost a lot of market share to Apple and Android over the past two years, particularly as "Bring your own device" polices in workplaces allow employees to choose their own devices – often bringing iPhones and devices from Samsung Electronics into what were once BlackBerry-only workplaces.

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At the same time, the mobile device management space – which RIM was trying to address with newer versions of its BES software – has gotten more competitive. On Tuesday, Samsung Venture Investment Corp., an offshoot of the giant South Korean conglomerate, invested in Toronto-based mobile device management company Fixmo Inc., which has at least one former RIM executive working for it. Rick Segal, Fixmo's CEO and founder, said in an interview the company's software is not always in direct competition with RIM, and is sometimes layered on top of other platforms for additional security.

Also on Tuesday, Wal-Mart Canada Corp., which is launching a big expansion across the country, confirmed it would be selling BlackBerry 10 phones out of its Wal-Mart Wireless locations.

But details of the distribution deal are still being worked out. "At this time we cannot confirm the models we will carry or the pricing," Wal-Mart Canada spokesperson Susan Schutta said.

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