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RIM unveils free BlackBerry server

Enterprise Express set for March arrival

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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.

BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express will slot in between personal plans provided by telcos and the company's industrial-strength BlackBerry Enterprise Server.

The new server software was announced Tuesday at the Mobile World Congress conference and exhibition in Barcelona, and it's set to hit the web in March.

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). ®

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