Version 5 of RIM's BlackBerry Mobile Voice System is both new and late.
Research In Motion's comparatively glacial development pace for the
BlackBerry OS left significant opportunity for upstart mobile operating systems
and devices to gain consumer mind and market share. The use of these devices on
corporate networks- gradually being permitted by many IT departments as
security and productivity features reach acceptable levels-has created
opportunities for other product makers to take advantage of RIM's confining
ecosystem and slow development pace on its server room technologies as well.
Recently, I wrote that enterprise mobile implementers need to consider unified
communications when evaluating which employee-owned devices and mobile
operating systems to permit on the corporate network
The obvious corollary to this missive is that the UC and mobile IT teams need
to ensure that choices made on the back end of the UC deployment match up with
those mobile devices that will be supported.
With that in mind, RIM recently announced Version 5.0 of its BlackBerry
Mobile Voice System (MVS)
at the 2010 Wireless Enterprise Symposium.
The biggest enhancement within Version 5 is the addition of voice over WiFi
support for certain BlackBerry devices, allowing the WiFi network to serve as
the transport medium between BlackBerry devices and the corporate PBX.
Certainly, this is an exciting and welcome improvement to the BlackBerry
platform, promising tighter integration of mobile workers into corporate UC
initiatives and more efficient use of existing network resources and mobile
calling plans. However, I suspect that the small range of devices supported by
the solution will be too limiting for customers that have begun permitting
other devices onto the network.
Although MVS leverages SIP to communicate with the corporate PBX, RIM
only officially supports Cisco at this time. Broader PBX support is expected
down the line, but since MVS 5.0 won't start shipping until an unspecified time
later this year, there could be an extensive wait for that to happen.
Also with MVS 5.0, the user must anticipate network degradation and go
into the phone menu to manually toggle the call from WiFi to cellular networks
and back. Manish Punjabi, RIM's senior director of Collaborative Mobile Voice,
says the company has not encountered any negative reactions to the manual
network switch from those in the beta program. Users simply become more
sensitive to when they are moving out of WiFi coverage and get in the habit of
moving the call manually.
Color me dubious on that point.
MVS is a value-added enhancement to a BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES)
implementation, leveraging the management infrastructure for relevant
application and policy delivery, as well for secured call control traffic. While
a BES server is a requirement, MVS 5.0 will work with older versions of BES
(4.17 and higher), but not with the recently released BlackBerry Enterprise
MVS capabilities will vary depending on the operating system on the
phone. While the majority of features in MVS 5.0 work with older 4.x-based
devices, BlackBerry OS 5.0 or higher is required to utilize the new voice over WiFi
capabilities. That leaves a few modern BlackBerrys that may be in use throughout
the enterprise out in the cold. A few models of the Curve, the Pearl and the Pearl Flip
support WiFi but don't appear to be upgradable to OS 5.0.
The reliance on BES on the back end also negates the enterprise's
ability to extend call capabilities to employee-owned BlackBerrys that may be
managed with a BES Express server or are unmanaged. And, of course, there's no
support at all for employee-owned iPhones or Android devices, even if they do
comply with corporate mandates for e-mail features plus security policies.
The PBX integration and WiFi connectivity afforded by MVS are not new
technologies, even if the latter is new to RIM's offering. I tested Agito's
RoamAnywhere Mobility Router
in 2008, and I found
it offered excellent integration with common corporate PBXes, along with an
automated handoff based on network fingerprinting that doesn't require users to
magically know all the WiFi network's dead spots.
Since then, Agito added BlackBerry to its list of supported devices,
without requiring a BES server or a particular OS version on the device. The
company claims support for 19 IP-PBXes-more if accessing a TDM PBX through a
gateway. And with its support for the iPhone, Windows Mobile devices and Nokia
devices, Agito has provided a solution that can be extended to both corporate
and employee-owned devices.