BlackBerry to Branch Out With Sprint, New Server Release

RIM preps BlackBerry Enterprise Server 4.0; Sprint partnership waiting on support for PalmOne Treo.

ATLANTA—Research In Motion Ltd. is working on new products and carrier partnerships that will mean easier deployment and more choices for IT managers.

RIM this summer will release the next version of its BlackBerry Enterprise Server, said Jim Balsillie, co-chairman and CEO of the Waterloo, Ontario, company, in an interview at last weeks CTIA Wireless show in Atlanta. The most significant feature of BES 4.0 is that it has no footprint on the desktop, Balsillie said. As a result, IT managers can provision the software to devices remotely; previous versions required a desktop install.

RIM is close to finalizing a partnership deal with Sprint PCS Group, the last major U.S. carrier not yet selling RIMs products. RIM should be added to the Sprint portfolio by late this year, said Cameron Rejali, vice president of product management and development at Sprint Business Solutions, in Overland Park, Kan.

Sprint officials said the deal is contingent on BlackBerry support for PalmOne Inc.s Treo device, which is Sprints most highly touted smart phone. While newer RIM devices support voice, customers tend to use RIM BlackBerrys for data only, according to an official, who said Sprint wants to garner both voice and data revenues from its wireless customers.

For example, music mogul Russell Simmons, chairman and CEO of Rush Communications Ltd. and co-founder and chairman of Def Jam Recordings, in New York, spoke at CTIA, saying that while many of his colleagues use RIMs latest BlackBerrys, "the phone doesnt work so well."

While Treo support is pending, another long-awaited device has an uncertain future. In November 2002, Nokia unveiled the Nokia 6800 messaging phone. Due in the second half of last year, the phone was to include support for the BlackBerry server.

Nokia has decided to delay BlackBerry support in the United States because of legal concerns. Last August, a federal judge ruled in favor of NTP Inc. in a patent-infringement case against RIM. This included an injunction barring RIM from selling its products in the United States. While the court stayed the injunction pending appeal, Nokia officials said they remain concerned. While they are not necessarily waiting for the case to be settled, they are still working out the terms of the release with RIM.

"We decided until thats straightened out to delay the availability of BlackBerry functionality on the 6800 in the U.S.," said Joe Gottlieb, director of business development and strategy for Nokias Enterprise Mobility Systems business unit in Mountain View, Calif. "Were waiting to see how that pans out."

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