BlackBerry still targeting businesses

On the smartphone's 10th anniversary, RIM officials discussed its signature handheld's enterprise strengths over competitors like the iPhone and the Google Android platform

While competitors like the Apple iPhone and the budding Google Android platform have garnered a lot of attention lately, Research in Motion (RIM), maker of the ubiquitous BlackBerry smartphone, sees itself as the right choice for businesses, a company official stressed Friday.

RIM officials held a press session in San Francisco Monday to tout the tenth anniversary of the BlackBerry as well as promote the company's wireless communications solutions for enterprises of varying sizes. Asked how BlackBerry stacks up against iPhone, Alan Panezic, vice president of the RIM platform product management group, emphasized business benefits for a corporate audience, where security, usability and connecting to corporate assets are paramount.

[ While RIM is promoting its signature smartphone, the company is also a party in a patent dispute. ]

"From our perspective, we really see [BlackBerry] as head and shoulders above anything that's out there in the marketplace," said Panezic, who later noted BlackBerry also can be used as a consumer-oriented device. The BlackBerry Storm model could be regarded as the functional equivalent of the iPhone, although it was not designed with that intention, said David Heit, director of software product management at RIM.

 As far as Android, Panezic said, "To be quite to be quite honest, it's a wait-and-see attitude. It's an open device-centric platform." He also emphasized BlackBerry as offering a platform with behind-the-firewall capabilities and push technology.

The BlackBerry has expanded beyond its roots as a wireless tool to read e-mail, now offering such capabilities as business collaboration like social networking and the sharing of data and documents, Panezic said. "That's an example of things that 10 years ago were quite frankly a dream," he said.

While smartphones like the BlackBerry are only a relatively small portion of the overall cell phone population, the volume is growing, Heit stressed. The smartphone has been a disruptive technology to devices like the laptop computer and desktop phone as it adds more capabilities, such as reading and editing of documents, he said.

"I'm starting to eliminate the use cases why I carry a laptop," Heit said. Eventually, the BlackBerry could be expanded to such diverse uses as remotely controlling the temperature in a home swimming pool or as a TV remote, he said.

The company plans to open in March an application store for third-party and RIM applications for BlackBerry. Applications for the BlackBerry were noted, such as the Pyxis Mobile application for mortgage-banking and the Salesforce.com CRM system.

RIM officials also detailed company technologies including BlackBerry Enterprise Server 5.0, for pushing e-mail and data to the BlackBerry. Previously referred to as "Argon," version 5.0 is due in the second quarter of this year, featuring enhancements in scalability and application deployment as well as high availability.

BlackBerry Professional Software provides smaller scale version of Enterprise Server, for small and mid-sized businesses. BlackBerry Mobile Voice System, meanwhile, allows calls to an office desktop phone to be channeled to a BlackBerry.

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