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RIM's Corporate Call

BlackBerry 's BlackBerry devices can now act as your corporate voicemail inbox and can serve up email on the go.

The Canadian vendor has introduced new software that allows its wireless devices to interface with the corporate PBX, letting users access and manage their office voicemail at any time and be reached on a single number. The BlackBerry MVS system consists of client software, "connectors" into the BlackBerry enterprise server, and the Ascendent Voice Mobility Suite, which links to the corporate PBX.

RIM bought Ascendent Systems last year to add this functionality to the BlackBerry. "BMVS delivers exactly what the market expected when the deal was first announced, so in this regard it is good news, and a promise fulfilled," says Info-Tech Research Group analyst Carmi Levy. (See RIM in Voice 'Push'.)

At 3GSM in February, RIM said it had started to add this functionality to its new 8800 device. The BMVS release lets companies add the new functions to older BlackBerry devices, too.

The software could be central to helping RIM maintain and perhaps extend its prime position in the wireless enterprise market. It also represents RIM's first major entry into the world of fixed mobile convergence (FMC). (See BlackBerry Convergence.)

RIM is not alone in viewing enterprise convergence as a potentially lucrative market niche. Major vendors such as Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) have also developed systems with the intention of extending desk phone functions to mobile devices, and a number of startups are targeting this space. (See Cisco & DoCoMo Do Convergence, Cisco, Nokia Team on FMC, and The Convergence Contenders.)

Unlike many of the others in this space, however, RIM hasn't yet announced any plans to extend these corporate convergence capabilities to office or hotspot WiFi networks. Nor does RIM yet have a dual-mode device capable of supporting WiFi-to-cellular roaming.

"WiFi capability has always been a thorny issue with RIM," notes Info-Tech's Levy. Concerns around battery life and device size have been an inhibiting factor for many hardware vendors dealing with dual-mode. Levy suspects that RIM's issue is more than merely technical, however.

"Beyond hardware performance, it's clear that WiFi capability would be a negative feature for carriers, who would lose data revenue from users who would no longer have to use GSM or CDMA-based coverage when in range of a WiFi hotspot. This is the so-called unwritten rule that has likely been behind RIM's lack of enthusiasm for bringing WiFi-enabled BlackBerry devices to market." Eventually, however, Levy expects RIM to add WiFi because it will be part of an expected feature set on these devices. "Before the recently introduced BlackBerry Curve was released, rumors ran rampant that it would include WiFi," Levy notes. "In the end, it lacked WiFi, but I expect RIM to include it in future models as a means of keeping pace with a fast-evolving smartphone market." (See RIM Curves It Around.)

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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