In a move to compete in a broader smartphone market, Research In Motion on Tuesday rolled out BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express. The free server software wirelessly syncs BlackBerry smartphones with Microsoft Exchange or Microsoft Windows Small Business Server.
RIM is giving away the software to leverage what it sees as two key market opportunities -- small businesses and consumers. With Apple's iPhone grabbing the attention of these growing smartphone audiences, RIM figures free software could help woo these demographics to its platform.
RIM President and co-CEO Mike Lazaridis called the free server software a "cost-effective solution that allows companies of all sizes to support enterprise-grade mobile connectivity for all employees without compromising security or manageability."
An Evolving Market
With a price tag of free, few can dispute Lazaridis' point about the economic advantage to small and midsize companies that want enterprise-grade security without advanced features. BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express will also serve the consumer market. RIM pointed to a growing demand from employees to connect their personal BlackBerry smartphones to work e-mail.
"Like everyone else, RIM needs to evolve its position going forward," said Michael Gartenberg, a vice president at Interpret. "The notion of offering the BlackBerry server for free for small to midsize businesses underscores how important that market segment is and, at the same time, how RIM also needs to evolve its platform going forward in a world that's very different."
BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express works with Microsoft Exchange 2010, 2007 and 2003 and Microsoft Windows Small Business Server 2008 and 2003 to offer users push-based, wireless access to e-mail, calendars, contacts, notes and tasks, as well as other business applications and enterprise systems behind a firewall.
RIM stressed that the new server software leverages the same security architecture found in BlackBerry Enterprise Server. It offers 35 controls and policies, including the ability to remotely wipe a smartphone and enforce and reset passwords.
New Browser Coming Soon
As part of its Mobile World Congress 2010 lineup, RIM also unveiled a new browser and a new strategy for mobile applications. The WebKit browser will be available sometime this year and promises to download files faster and render web sites better.
"RIM's browser experience has to improve going forward, but at the same time the browser is becoming less important for mobile users," Gartenberg said. "In many cases, rich applications are delivering specific content back to the device, and so are becoming more important than the browsing experience."
Lazaridis also outlined RIM's plans for so-called SuperApps (not to be confused with Google's "superphone") and noted that the quality of applications is more important than quantity. He demonstrated how users could read or send Twitter tweets straight from the device's in-box and transfer music automatically from a BlackBerry to a vehicle's stereo system using a Bluetooth wireless connection.