But migrating to another platform wont come cheap, according to two consultancies that have analyzed the costs of such a move.
Switching from BlackBerry devices and servers to a competitive platform will cost as much as $844 per client, according to a report to be issued on March 1 by the telecom consulting firm Telwares Communications.
"The number that I came up with was really the baseline of looking at the tactical steps of what it would take to switch over 500 users," said Michael Voellinger, vice president of wireless services at Telwares in Pleasanton, Calif.
And a Jan. 13 report from J. Gold Associates yielded similar numbers, estimating an almost identical switchover cost of $845 per user.
Both reports factored in software license and device costs, as well as the time it would take to deploy the new solution.
"Switching to a new e-mail platform is a nightmare, so I concur with the $845," said John Halamka, CIO of Harvard Medical School and Caregroup Health Systems, a Boston-area hospital group that supports some 800 BlackBerry devices.
The fate of BlackBerry service has been hanging in the balance for years. Holding company NTP sued mobile device maker Research in Motion for alleged patent infringement on nine wireless e-mail patents in 2001. U.S. District Judge James Spencer ruled in favor of NTP in 2003, instructing RIM to halt its sales of BlackBerry devices and services in the United States until NTPs patents run out in 2012. Spencer stayed the ruling, however, pending appeal.
Since then, the case has gone through several appeals and failed settlement attempts. Spencer held a remand hearing on Feb. 24 to reconsider the injunction. As of March 1, he had yet to make a ruling.
In the case of an injunction, RIM customers may not have to switch providers. RIM released some details Feb. 9 of a long-awaited "workaround" that customers can use if Spencer issues an injunction, and if RIM and NTP dont settle out of court.
RIM officials maintain that the workaround does not infringe on any of NTPs patents. However, RIMs attorneys said setting up the workaround will be a headache for IT managers, and that Spencer needs to take that into account when considering an injunction.
In the Feb. 23 hearing, RIMs lead counsel said it will take 2 million hours to implement the workaround, referring to the total amount of hours for all the BlackBerry administrators in the United States.
"Theres going to be a cost for the workaround, but itll probably be less than $100 per user," said Jack Gold, president of J. Gold Associates in Northborough, Mass. "But Id bet that there would be some horror stories; there always are."