No Email? No Problem

As companies look for ways to roll out more enterprise applications to mobile workers, many assume that any new apps will run on a device primarily intended for mobile email, such as a BlackBerry or a Treo.

Now, BlackBerry maker BlackBerry says it will deconstruct that equation with the release this fall of a new version of its BlackBerry Enterprise Server that will enable companies to provide mobile applications to BlackBerry devices that don't necessarily have a corporate email account. (See RIM's Unified Theory.)

The new product, which carries the unwieldy moniker "BlackBerry Enterprise Servier for MDS [Mobile Data Services] Applications," has been years in the making, according to RIM senior product manager David Heit.

"When we first released the BlackBerry [in 1998], it didn't take long before some customers understood the power of this type of solution in providing mobile access to information as you need it," Heit says. "They came back to us and said, 'We would like more members of our organization to be able to use this, and we'd like for them to use it on an applications basis, but there's really no need for them to have any type of email solution.'"

The new server will run various forms of out-of-the-box or custom software applications over the familiar BlackBerry devices, including field service, sales force automation, CRM, healthcare, logistics, and SAP apps. While pricing for the new BES has not been set, Heit says that the savings of not having to provide every BlackBerry user with a corporate email account will be a powerful incentive for some businesses.

"If you've got 500 delivery drivers, and you don't necessarily want to give them all email accounts and incur the overhead of that, this way you can provide schedule and routing applications to drivers without having to deploy email to them."

Other examples might be nurses, police officers, field technicians, and external contractors. The advent of mobile devices for non-email applications could help drive the adoption of those applications more widely; it may also open up new markets for RIM as its competitors, including Palm Inc. , are nipping at its heels in the mobile email market. (See Palm Pushes Deeper Into Enterprise.)

"While our competitors are still trying to provide an email platform to compete with us," says Heit, "We're seeing rapidly evolving needs from our more advanced customers."

— Richard Martin, Senior Editor, Unstrung

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