Why has IT embraced RIM? Because for some time the company had "the only secure device," says David MacFarlane, vice president of business development at Idokorro, a small mobile enterprise app-dev house. "The first thing our customers ask is: Is it secure? The BlackBerry has the BlackBerry Enterprise Server for secure e-mail." This security provides end-to-end encryption and compression between the device and RIM's server, which enterprises deploy inside the firewall.
RIM's principal competitor is Good Technology, which offers a similar security scheme in its GoodLink mobile messaging software (so similar, the companies sued each other, settling last March). GoodLink works with Palm, Pocket PC, and RIM devices. Both RIM's and Good's solutions can withstand frequent disconnections, a fact of life for mobile wireless data communication through carrier networks -- and a showstopper if an enterprise tried using a conventional VPN.
Palm lacks a comparable security model, which may be one reason why the company -- which once owned the enterprise space by default -- has experienced declining enterprise sales in the last couple of years, according to Gartner's Kort. PalmSource will address this deficiency with its new Cobalt operating system (already in the hands of OEMs) that enables enterprises to "plug in" security solutions, such as a licensed version of RIM's secure server. Cobalt will also be the first multitasking Palm OS, resulting in a much more attractive application environment.
As Palm has ebbed, Pocket PCs have flowed into the enterprise. Meanwhile, sales of Hewlett-Packard iPaqs are double what they were a year ago, according to Gartner. Because Microsoft lacked a compelling carrier-based solution, the main attraction has been the capability to run Windows Mobile and Pocket versions of Word, Excel, and Outlook. According to Ed Suwanjindar, lead product manager of the mobile and embedded devices group at Microsoft, the "core, killer app" for Pocket PCs has been Outlook synchronization.
Gartner's Kort expects a mobile wireless wave to start hitting Pocket PCs as soon as this summer. For one thing, Windows Mobile for Pocket PC 2003, which has just begun shipping on devices in the US, will be the first version to support "meaningful [e-mail] push capability for cellular networks," according to Good Technology's Shader. Just as significant, Good will begin shipping its GoodLink 3.0 secure wireless messaging solution for that new Windows Mobile version this month.
Adam Zawel, The Yankee Group director of wireless/mobile enterprise and commerce, adds that Exchange 2003 is "built from the ground up with wireless in mind. The thorny problems surrounding mobile computing are handled in the design of the application itself." The combination of Microsoft's application support and Good's security may well open the floodgates to e-mail everywhere for Pocket PCs from HP, Dell, Toshiba, and others.
Picking the Right Mobile Platform
Putting a secure messaging pipe in place was more than a software development challenge for RIM and Good. Both also had to cut deals with carriers, which involved "a lot of legwork and butt-kissing," according to Gartner's Kort. Now that the basics are in place, he says, e-mail is just the beginning. "Then you build upon that and start getting in behind the firewall and getting your applications."