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Rogers Communications (RCI.B-T) is teaming with a mobile device management company to enable corporate customers to use Apple (AAPL-Q) and Google (GOOG-Q) Android devices to send secure business email.
In a blow to Research In Motion's (RIM-T) BlackBerry, Canada's largest telecommunications company said on Tuesday it is partnering with Montreal-based Trellia to give more options to businesses that once relied exclusively on Blackberry's security features to protect employee email.
The Trellia service will adapt the growing number of non-BlackBerry devices turning up in the hands of employees so they can handle business communications securely.
IT departments will be able to configure devices remotely, enforce company policies, control international roaming costs and manage corporate applications.
The move by Rogers is a response to a broad shift by consumers to Apple's iPhone and iPad or devices using Google's Android software. Rogers wants to ensure its corporate clients can use these devices for business as well.
"This is driven by customer demand," said Mansell Nelson, vice-president for Rogers' machine-to-machine business, which also covers smart metering, fleet and home management.
RIM's BlackBerry has long been dominant in boardrooms due to the speed and security of its email and other messaging, superior keypads and long battery life.
As touchscreen devices such as the iPhone grow more popular with consumers, employees want to hook them up to corporate systems.
"My 19-year-old daughter with her iPhone would say 'why do I want to be given that RIM thing, why can't I just use my iPhone in the enterprise that I'm working for now'," Nelson said. "That's a tide that I'm not sure you can stop."
The Trellia service will cost around $3.50 per device a month with no upfront costs, and will be incorporated into the Rogers bill, Trellia Chief Executive Giovanni Forte said.
"We can get on the phone with any company and activate an iPhone and provide security in five minutes," he said.
RIM charges carriers a monthly subscription fee per BlackBerry device. ThinkEquity analyst Mark McKechnie estimated last week that RIM gets an average of $4.67 a month from each of its 90 million subscribers globally and that service fees make up more than 80 percent of RIM's earnings.
He called on RIM to support rival devices on its network operating centers and BlackBerry Enterprise Solution (BES) servers before rivals catch up on the company's strengths.
In May, RIM said it had bought a device management company, Ubitexx, and would manage Apple and Android devices on its secure servers, but McKechnie said he had "not as of yet witnessed any moves in the direction."
At the time, RIM said the service would be available this year but would not include its push messaging capabilities or data-squeezing and encryption technology.
Nelson, who estimates Rogers has hundreds of thousands of enterprise BlackBerrys on its network, thinks alternatives will take at least ten percent of that market within five years.
Rogers was one of the first network operators to work with RIM, which built software for a data-only network called Mobitex that Rogers operated in the early 1990s.