Research In Motion is now offering free BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express software for extending IBM Lotus Domino to employees' BlackBerry handsets. Among other features, the software securely and wirelessly synchronizes e-mail, calendar, contacts, notes and tasks between the smartphones and IBM's Lotus Domino.
"BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express is a free download that is designed for businesses of all sizes," Jeff McDowell, senior vice president of Enterprise and Platform Marketing at RIM, said in a Nov. 5 statement. "It provides an easy way for businesses to get started using BlackBerry smartphones with IBM Lotus Domino, and it's also an ideal no-cost software solution for businesses that want to allow their employees to connect their personal BlackBerry smartphones to their work email."
The software is now available for download on the RIM site.
The blurring line between personal and work devices has long been a frustration for enterprise IT staffs, but it's also worked to the advantage of companies such as RIM, which has looked to market its handsets to consumers as well as enterprise workers. During an earnings call in June, RIM Co-CEO Jim Balsillie announced that non-enterprise customers "now represent over half of the total BlackBerry subscriber account base."
Enterprise are nonetheless still a major focus for the company, known for its top-notch security and push email, and the free software is one more way to court companies, particularly small businesses, in a struggling economy.
The RIM offer additionally arrives as Dell, a newcomer to the smartphone world, has announced a plan to replace its employees' BlackBerry smartphones with Microsoft Windows Phone 7-running Dell smartphones - and to set up a service to help other businesses do the same. Dell told the Wall Street Journal that the switchover will enable it to save 25 percent, though other businesses will see somewhat reduced savings.
Mark Guibert, RIM senior vice president of corporate marketing, told eWEEK he's doubtful of such savings. Guibert noted RIM's offer of the free software, and said that "BlackBerry smartphones are far more efficient with respect to data usage, which means that their monthly service charges will also likely increase."
In addition to secure wireless syncing, the BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express software enables BlackBerry owners to manage email folders and search email on the mail server; to book meetings, accept meetings, check availability and forward calendar attachments; to send out-of-office replies; access files stored on the company network; and to access business systems store behind a corporate firewall.
To IT administrators, the software offers tools to allow employees to secure lost or stolen devices; more than 75 controls and security policies, such as the ability to remotely wipe a lost device; and a Web-based interface for deploying applications over the air and managing smartphones.
The free Express software can also be run in parallel with the premium version of the RIM's BlackBerry Enterprise Server software.
"There's tremendous growth in work force mobility, from small businesses through to major corporations, and there is clear evidence that shows how smartphones can increase organizational responsiveness, improve productivity and help employees make the most of their time," Ed Brill, IBM's director of messaging and collaboration, said in a statement. "BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express is a great opportunity for businesses to cost-effectively extend Lotus Domino to more employees on BlackBerry smartphones."