Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM) on Monday announced BlackBerry Protect, a free service that will enhance the security of both enterprise and private BlackBerry device owners.
BlackBerry Protect will enable remote wipe and wireless backup and restore, among other things. It is being launched in limited beta this week.
Separately, rumors about the BlackBerry tablet are heating up, and the device is now said to have two cameras and run on a 1GHz processor.
The BlackBerry Protect service will be free of charge. It will let users wirelessly back up, restore and locate their BlackBerry smartphones, RIM said.
Users can remotely lock and wipe their BlackBerry smartphones if they have been lost or stolen. The remote wipe feature also wipes any micro-SD cards in the device. Users must be on the Web to use the service's remote features.
To use the service, users will have to download and install the Protect app on their smartphones. They can then decide what they want to back up and how often.
The first backup will be a full backup; subsequent backups will be incremental, meaning only new data entered into the smartphone will be saved. This will help reduce the use of wireless data.
If a user loses a smartphone, he can remotely put up a "Lost and Found" screen on the device that provides a message and contact information. From the Web, users can use the BlackBerry's built-in GPS feature, if it has one, to see its current location.
Enterprise users already have these capabilities through the BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES). The BES overrides BlackBerry Protect, so enterprise users whose BlackBerry devices double as consumer devices can keep their corporate data safe.
The BlackBerry Protect service also lets users wirelessly restore all data backed up from their old smartphones to new ones. It supports up to five devices associated with one account.
BlackBerry Protect will be offered as a limited beta to members of the BlackBerry Beta Zone this week. It will be put into open public beta later this year.
Private BlackBerry owners can only back up their devices if these are hooked up to their PCs or Macs. Enterprise users, however, have been able to do wireless backups.
"The idea behind this Protect application is to allow consumer BlackBerry users to wirelessly back up, find, lock or wipe their smartphones," Chris Hazelton, a research director at the 451 Group, told TechNewsWorld.
While BlackBerry has fallen behind Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) and Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) in offering wireless sync for consumers, it may be making up for that by offering the Protect service free.
"Large numbers of users will flock to the service because it's free," Hazelton said. "Apple struggled early on with its MobileMe service, for which it charges $99 a year," he added.
"This becomes a service you must have on all platforms," Maribel Lopez, principal analyst and founder of Lopez Research, remarked. "It's not going to be optional because if you're offering a smartphone without it, you'll have a serious gap in your portfolio."
Meanwhile, rumors about a potential BlackBerry tablet are heating up. RIM now plans to launch a small BlackBerry tablet toward the end of this year instead of next year as planned, according to an analyst note that CNET reported on.
The tablet will have a 7-inch touchscreen, CNET quoted Ashok Kumar as saying. Kumar is an analyst and managing director at Rodman & Renshaw. The device will have a 1 GHz processor from Marvell.
The BlackBerry tablet will reportedly also have two cameras, one in its front and the other in its back.
It's not clear how much credence we can give these rumors. In April, RIM ordered 8.9-inch screens from Hon Hai for its tablet, according to the Crackberry blog.
"It would be better for RIM to move the launch date for its BlackBerry tablet forward," Lopez told TechNewsWorld.
RIM may offer a tablet in order to leverage its background in mobile computing hardware and its messaging service infrastructure,the 451 Group's Hazelton said. However, it will need to either develop a new operating system or evolve the BlackBerry operating system to work well with a large touchscreen, he pointed out.
That may mean the tablet's launch will be delayed.
"As RIM is focused on launching at least two high-profile smartphones later this year, the company may wait until next year to launch its own tablet," Hazelton explained.
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