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2/10/2006
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IT Execs Taking Cautious Approach To RIM Workaround Plan

While applauding efforts to avoid a service shut down, IT managers say they want to test Research In Motion's workaround software for corporate BlackBerry users before they implement it.

BlackBerry users are pleased that Research In Motion plans to make workaround software available to keep the service working in the U.S., even if the U.S. District Court issues an injunction in the ongoing patent litigation. But IT managers want more time to test the software and decide whether it's the best contingency plan for their corporate BlackBerry users.

Take law firm Kirkland & Ellis for example, which has 1,500 BlackBerry users. CIO Steve Novak says it would take time to evaluate RIM's workaround and the impact it might have on the company's messaging systems.

Like Novak, many IT managers are eager to understand how the workaround software would work. So far, RIM has disclosed that its workaround designs include a software update called the BlackBerry Multi-Mode Edition, which RIM claims to have developed and tested already. The software can operate in different modes, such as "standard mode" during normal operation or "U.S. mode" if the service is shut down. It's wirelessly activated by RIM through its network operations center.

Existing customers will be able to download the software from RIM's website, allowing them to continue getting the BlackBerry service. If an injunction is issued barring the sale of new products, RIM says it will pre-load the software onto BlackBerry devices and incorporate it into the BlackBerry Enterprise Server software before the devices are shipped.

RIM has been offering the workaround under strict non-disclosure agreement to its customers, but the company has become more vocal lately because it hopes to influence the looming Feb. 24 court date, when U.S. District Judge James Spencer may decide the future of the BlackBerry service in the United States, says Forrester Research analyst Ellen Daley.

But what users really want is enough time to test the software before implementing it. "My hope, as an end user of the service, is that adequate time would be provided to test and migrate my existing user base to the new processing model without service disruption," says Novak.

The software is not available for download yet. That will be determined at the end of the month, after the federal court issues a ruling. In the meantime, the only thing BlackBerry users can do is wait.

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