RIM unveils free BlackBerry server
Enterprise Express set for March arrival
MWC Research in Motion is offering a tasty incentive for small and medium businesses to standardize on BlackBerries with the introduction of new - and free - server software.
Express has many of the same functions as does the more-capable Enterprise version, though fewer of the IT-management tools and less support for enterprise-level add-ons. Express is also missing its big brother's "high availability" capabilities.
An SMB that installs Express will enable its employees to use their BlackBerries to sync their email, calendar, contacts, notes, and tasks; manage email folders and search email; check for calendar avaiability, book meetings, and forward calendar attachments; and access network-based files and edit Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files using DataViz Documents To Go.
Express supports Microsoft Exchange (2003 SP2, 2007 SP1, 2010) and Small Business Server (2003, 2008), and it's certified for use with VMware ESX. The full Enterprise server omits support for Microsoft Small Business Server but adds support for IBM Lotus Domino and Novell GroupWise. Express can be installed on an existing mail server, but this limits usage to 75 users. But like the full-fledged Enterprise version, it can also operate as a dedicated server with support for over 2,000 users.
The full Enterprise Server, however, will be required to for support of BlackBerry Mobile Voice System; Microsoft Office Communications Server; IBM Lotus Sametime (instant messaging), Connections "social software for business"), and Quickr (document sharing); and Chalk Pushcast (podcasting).
Also, the Express server provides 35 "IT controls and policies" while the full version comes with over 450 such tools. One welcome tool in both, however, is the ability to remotely wipe a BlackBerry.
There's another radical difference between the Express and Enterprise versions: pricing. Enterprise Server Express is free, including client access licenses (CALs). The Enterprise Server non-Express, by contrast, costs $3,999 for 20 users, with CAL packs costing $99 for one, $429 for five, $699 for 10, and $3,299 for 50, with larger packs available, presumably at negotiated prices.
For more information on the differences between the full Enterprise Server and the soon-to-come Express version, check out RIM's handy comparison chart (PDF). ®
Too little, too late.
We got Blackberrys on our last contract because the executive thought they were great - In fact the first our department knew about it was when one of them came in and said "Jim connect these to email would ya." So off we went looking for the imap client or exchange client, like on a normal phone, only to discover there was none.
We eventually discovered that proprietary software was required which could either be Vodafone BIS (an externally hosted service) or a grands worth of server software.
All in all, when compared with other phones that just work Blackberry left us with a very sour "vendor lock in" type taste in the mouth and I certainly wouldn't choose them in the future because of it.
If they had had this "free" software then that might have made a difference - except that the effort required to sync emails, calendar, etc now requires a new server, learning new software, keeping it up to date, etc.
The only way I'll ever consider blackberry devices again is if they make a client on the phone which does emails/exchange natively.
I would buy Blackberry tomorrow if it cold talk to a bog-standard IMAP server rather than having to go through some third-party server. I don't WANT some other server poking about in my email just to pass it on to me - I can do this quite easily myself, or could do if the BB had a standard IMAP client. Yes, I know there are other clients you can buy, but it shouldn't be necessary.
Not quite right
No, I want an application running on the phone over which I have some illusion of control that talks directly to my IMAP server, or other software on the same machine that talks to the IMAP bit. The offerings I've seen to date require use of a third-party machine to host that in-between bit of software and that is not acceptable.