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2/8/2009
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BlackBerry Enterprise Server Revealed

Version 5.0 of RIM's back-end server software is expected to improve administrative controls, enhance e-mail capabilities, and offer 450 security policies.

Research In Motion showcased its next-generation BlackBerry Enterprise Server at a press event Friday, and the company said it will offer collaboration abilities, mobilize more workers, and reduce costs of implementation.

Like its predecessors, the BlackBerry Enterprise Server 5.0 will sit behind a corporate firewall and enable secure synchronization between smartphones and the company's messaging and collaboration software. With the economy staggering, RIM said it knows businesses are looking to reduce costs but still recognize the value of a mobilized workforce. The biggest contributor to total cost of ownership is upgrading units in the field, but BES 5.0 will have secure over-the-air updates for employees on the go.

Smartphones were once the exclusive domain of top-level executives, but RIM said many of its customers are viewing mobility as an asset for a larger set of workers. Designed to be a "Fortune 2000 CIO's delight," the BES 5.0 has a multiserver architecture that's scalable up to about 100,000 smartphones.

"It's about emphasizing the 'R' in ROI," said Alan Panezic, RIM's VP of platform product management group. "This leverages existing investments as all the security and push capabilities are already built into the platform in a vendor-agnostic way."

The administrative controls have moved to a Web-based interface because RIM said it wanted a customizable option that wouldn't force companies to install new software. It has also received a user interface overhaul that's designed make it easier for IT departments to have granular control over their fleet of smartphones.

IT departments will also be able to schedule updates for devices in the field, which previously could only be done in real time. There are more than 450 IT policy options, which include remote wiping, shutting off Bluetooth, white- and blacklists, and other security settings. The BES 5.0 will retain the ability to push applications to the entire fleet or to individual handsets, and RIM said it expects a new class of applications to appear that can enhance productivity. For example, it recently acquired Chalk Media for about $19 million and it lets companies push training videos, corporate podcasts, and other rich-media content to its mobile workers.

The update will also have some updated features for the end user, and it's no surprise that the e-mail capabilities will be enhanced. BlackBerry users will have an easier time setting follow-up flags, will be able to manage e-mail folders, forward calendar appointments, and view attachments in meeting requests or calendar entries. Contact synchronization also will be improved, RIM said.

Workers will also have access to files on the corporate intranet on the go with the updated server, which could drastically reduce the equipment needs of mobile employees. For example, a salesperson could download a PowerPoint presentation from the corporate network to his BlackBerry on the go, and display it using software on the handset or by using the handset as a USB drive.

The BES 5.0 will be generally available in the second quarter of 2009, and pricing will vary depending on size of the deployment, RIM said.

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