The business profile for the wireless sector, it seems, has caught up with the rest of the industry—or down, as the case may be.
An influx of inexpensive 802.11 components from Taiwan is making it harder and harder to earn a decent margin on hardware. Not only have prices on 802.11b equipment fallen to near give-away levels, 802.11g has also taken a downward turn.
Just this week, Conexant Systems preannounced depressed earnings that the company attributed to competitive pressures.
At the same time, the outlook for value-add products and services couldnt be brighter. Contrast Conexants earnings report with that from Research In Motion. RIMs first-quarter net income of $55 million on total revenues that rose to $269.6 million from $104.5 million a year earlier and the company forecasts continued growth as device manufacturers such as Motorola Inc., Nokia Corp. and Siemens AG introduce BlackBerry services on their devices.
Those fine people who put e-mail at our fingertips anytime, anywhere are—with a little help from their friends—building the BlackBerry into a data delivery platform. And their success with it testifies to the power of partnerships and the markets that are cultivated through the applications and services they develop.
TransAlta, a Canadian energy and trading company with operations in Canada, the United States, Mexico and Australia, is using the BlackBerry platform to push operational data out from its SAP back end to managers in the field.
Paul Kurchina, technology program manager at the company, introduced RIMs BlackBerry Enterprise Server to Transaltas pit mining operation in Centralia, Washington, to cut hours—if not days—out of the key management decision cycles.
The BES, Kurchina said, “allows workers in the pits to look at the detail of things like purchase orders and say yes or no without having to go back to the office. In the old world, a manager with purchase orders to approve would have to go back to his desk. But why couldnt it be pushed out on a BlackBerry?”
In a mining operation where the office is typically miles away, the messaging system has enabled a “virtual office” that allows managers to spend more time in the field tending to mining operations than to paperwork.
“We use SAP pretty much wall to wall,” Kurchina said, “managing data ranging from financials to plant maintenance, marketing, management and human resources. Our people are saving a lot of time in terms of interaction,” he said. “Theyre able to make quick decisions.”
: RIMs Partnering Success”>
Howard Beader, director of product marketing for SAP Solutions for Mobile Business, said customers such as TransAlta have been asking “what else can we do with the BlackBerries” and are working with vendors and solutions providers on answers.
SAP, which has partnered with RIM “for a long time now,” according to Beader, has announced it will roll out a BlackBerry-based application in the third quarter that will provide instant access to its CRM system.
While partners such as SAP labor to bring applications to large enterprises and assist customers such as Transalta in integrating BlackBerry services with their ERP systems, other solutions providers are scaling RIMs services to the midmarket.
Massachusetts-based InterNoded Inc., for instance, currently hosts BES servers for about 50 customers in the northeast.
“This is an incredibly rich and rapidly growing space,” said Julie Palen, founder and CEO of InterNoded. “The device sale has really taken off, but theres also a big push on the integration side to go beyond pen and data.”
In addition to RIM, InterNoded works with six North American carries and IBM to offer messaging and other BlackBerry data delivery services to its customers. “Companies want this device, but if they want to roll it out to less than 2,000 [people], its not an inexpensive task,” Palen said.
InterNoded builds the BES, does the implementation and provides multidomain support that allows them to securely and separately host multiple companys e-mail. The cost to customers is as little as $25 per user per month.
Increasingly, InterNoded is taking on data center operations for clients. And that, Palen said, will “become more and more prevalent as people do more than PIM and e-mail.”