Research in Motion Ltd., a leader in the handheld wireless e-mail arena, is looking to extend its lead through additional application developer partnerships and a new single-mailbox patent.
RIM, developer of the popular BlackBerry device, last week announced a deal with ERP (enterprise resource planning) software developer SAP AG at that companys Sapphire show in Orlando, Fla., to provide wireless access to its ERP applications from RIM devices. The move follows a similar partnership the Waterloo, Ontario, company made with PeopleSoft Inc. last year.
RIM is also finalizing a similar deal with CRM (customer relationship management) leader Siebel Systems Inc. that is due soon, company officials said.
"RIMs strategy is about entrenching upon whats already out there," said Jim Balsillie, RIM chairman and co-CEO here at the Wireless 2001 conference last week. "This device has no identity. We think of it as a viewing and syncing machine. You have to subsume into all [corporate applications], or you compromise the value proposition."
In addition to ERP and CRM software, RIM is readying voice support for BlackBerry, although not any time soon in the United States. While RIM recently launched a device in Great Britain that supports the 2.5G GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) voice/data network, GPRS networks arent likely to hit the United States until next year.
RIM recently won a patent for a technology that allows its customers single-mailbox, wireless e-mail access. The patent should help the company build more partnerships and may work to discourage competitors from homing in on the space without going through RIM first. Palm, for instance, made a public vow last year to "out-RIM RIM," but the two companies do have periodic licensing discussions, Balsillie said.
If theres been any knock on BlackBerry, its been on the price of the device. RIM 950, which is the size of a pager, costs $349. The 957, which has a larger screen, costs $499. The server software costs $2,999. Still, corporations dont seem fazed. So far, 8,000 corporate customers have installed the RIM BlackBerry server behind their firewalls.
"Were scheduled to deploy the BlackBerry Enterprise Server supporting an initial rollout of approximately 20 devices next week," said Lester Morgan, senior manager of IT at the National Football League, in New York. "Were satisfied that the features and functionality of the system justify the price. For the time being, we plan to use them specifically for e-mail access. However, were keeping our options open with respect to future development."
On the hardware side, RIM has faced criticism in the past for not providing access from the RIM server to anything other than BlackBerry devices. But this will change.
"Java is running native on a Black-Berry device," Balsillie said, and several upcoming third-party phones will support Java 2 Micro Edition. "That means BlackBerry will be able to load on the phones. Stay tuned. Its an area where collaboration makes a lot of sense." The RIM server likely will support Java-enabled phones by next year, Balsillie said.