Ina Fried

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Weathering the Storm, RIM Makes Its Business Case in Boston

Mobilized is trudging through the snow in Beantown Thursday to hear Research In Motion talk about its plans for the enterprise. RIM is set to talk about why businesses should bet on both the BlackBerry and the forthcoming PlayBook tablet.

Angry Birds for the BlackBerry.

Update, 10:17 am ET: The intro is still going on. RIM Vice President Alec Taylor is talking about the Cuban Missile Crisis for some reason. However, RIM was nice enough to pass out slides for the whole day. Here are some of the highlights:

BlackBerry Mobile Voice System
Launching in early 2011, this is an update to RIM’s effort to unify the desk and mobile phone, offering a single identity, voiceover Wi-Fi calling, a single voicemail box, dialing office extensions and more. RIM says the new version will support more types of business phone systems.

Other features coming later this year include automatic hand-off from Wi-Fi to mobile networks, a “move call from desk” feature and more.

BlackBerry Balance
A new effort to support mixing personal and corporate data on the BlackBerry. RIM is adding features such as the ability for IT to choose to wipe only corporate information from a device or to limit users from cutting work data and pasting it into a personal application or email. Other features include warnings when sending emails or calendar invites outside of the organization, the ability to encrypt media cards and options for preventing access to work data by third-party applications.

BlackBerry client for Microsoft SharePoint
Launching in early 2011, this will bring data from Microsoft’s portal software directly to BlackBerry handhelds. It will work with both the 2007 and 2010 versions of SharePoint and integrates into a number of BlackBerry programs, including E-mail, calendar, Documents To Go and the browser.

As for the forthcoming tablet, RIM says it will ship with 1GB of memory, have 16GB, 32GB or 64GB of flash memory, include a 3-megapixel front-facing and 5-megapixel rear-facing camera and have micro USB and Micro HDMI ports. (I can’t remember if they have said all of that before.) The slides say only that it will ship this quarter and will be “competitively priced,” reiterating past company positioning.

According to the slides, the company also plans to talk about cloud-based device management and changes to allow one BlackBerry server to support multiple corporations.

10:35 am ET: The Cuban Missile Crisis is apparently over, and VP Pete Devenyi is now outlining the company’s business product road map and making the pitch for its strategy.

“We really do have a great story,” he says, noting that the enterprise is different from the “arms race” of the consumer market.

“It’s not just about the number of apps in App world,” he says, noting that businesses can and are building programs just for use within the corporation. Some businesses, he says, have hundreds of internal apps, none of which show up in the public storefront. BlackBerry, he says, also allows businesses better control than rivals over what programs are on a worker’s device. For example, Devenyi says, when workers change groups within a company, the programs they have access to can be updated automatically with programs deleted and added from their devices.

“That kind of power is power that no one else has,” he says. “We don’t read about that much.”

10:43 am: In addition to both the paid BlackBerry Enterprise Server and the slimmed-down free “Express” version of the server, RIM plans to launch an email system aimed directly at small-to-midsize businesses–MDaemon Messaging Server, BlackBerry Edition. The idea is to give smaller businesses a full email server that has full BlackBerry support. The product stems from an acquisition RIM made a year or two ago and offers what RIM says are features similar to Microsoft’s Exchange Server but at a fraction of the price.

The company is also launching “very, very soon” a modest update to its flagship server product, BlackBerry Enterprise Server 5.0.3. It will add more support for employee-owned devices (including the BlackBerry Balance feature described earlier), support for encrypted attachments and certification for Microsoft’s Office Communications Server 2007 R2 and the latest version, known as Lync 2010.

11:18 am: RIM is launching yet another server this year, known as the BlackBerry Enterprise Application Middleware (BEAM). BEAM, which companies would have to buy in addition to their BlackBerry email server, aims to streamline enterprise content for use on a BlackBerry. ‘What that results in is a much more efficient application than you would otherwise have,” Devenyi says. It’s in beta now, he adds.

11:25 am: BlackBerry is launching its equivalent of Find My Phone, known as BlackBerry Protect, which will allow individuals to remotely wipe or post a message if a device is lost. Protect will launch later this year, Devenyi says.

Finally, the company is talking about a number of changes it is making to the core BlackBerry Enterprise Server so that it can run via the cloud. Launching later this year, RIM will have the ability for its server product to be remotely hosted and support more than one business. It’s not clear yet if this will be RIM offering BlackBerry as a cloud-based service or if this is a product for hosting partners, though it sounds more like the latter.

11:32 am: Devenyi told Mobilized that the company is just showing the architectural changes it is making, not saying how it will bring the cloud-based capabilities to market. “We’re still working through a number of those details ourselves.” Devenyi said. “It could be both, but we are not announcing.”

11:42 am: On to the PlayBook finally. Senior Product manager Ryan Bidan gives the spiel. He says there is a lot that the company isn’t ready to share. Addressing concerns around battery life, Bidan notes the PlayBook has a 5300-miliamp battery, but doesn’t give specifics on how much battery life that will translate to.

“We’ll have good battery life,” he says. “Don’t worry about the battery life.”

Other details:
Software updates will be pushed down to the device on an ongoing basis. There will be a version of App World on the device for downloading developer-created programs.

And with that, the formal part of the event is over.

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There was a worry before I started this that I was going to burn every bridge I had. But I realize now that there are some bridges that are worth burning.

— Valleywag editor Sam Biddle