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2/6/2009
06:36 PM
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BlackBerry Prepped To Challenge Desktop Phones

Research In Motion is trying to give its smartphones the same functionality as enterprise desk phones with its Mobile Voice System.

Research In Motion was able to gain heavy traction in the enterprise market because of its wireless e-mail capabilities. But the BlackBerry maker also thinks it can turn its handsets into a desktop phone replacement with its Mobile Voice System.

A recent Forrester Research survey found 64% of enterprises say providing more mobility is a priority, and this will lead to the continued growth in adoption of smartphones. Many IT departments have gotten the hang of configuring data access and security policies, but there are still many clouded issues about voice. For example, many companies will pay for employees' smartphones, but they inevitably wind up paying for personal voice use as well, or it can lead to jumbled bill-reconciliation processes.

The MVS is a server that sits behind the corporate firewall and links to the corporate private branch exchange, or PBX. RIM said it enables a company to give smartphones the same functionality as a desktop phone.

"It's a very simple idea at its highest levels, but there are a lot of interesting capabilities," said David Heit, RIM's director of product management. "From a productivity perspective, we're reachable anywhere. I've taken office calls from on top of the Eiffel Tower."

With this system in place, a call can be made from the BlackBerry handset and it would use a wireless data network to log in to a secure BlackBerry Enterprise Server, and then the MVS server. Then it connects to the PBX via a SIP signal, or media gateway, and the call is routed from there. One of the benefits of this is that a mobile worker could dial in-office extensions and be connected on the go, as well as receive office-line calls on the handset.

This way of routing calls can lead to significant cost savings for businesses, RIM said, particularly for operations with offices in multiple geographic locations. For example, a mobile-to-mobile international call can be expensive, but using RIM's method, the calls will be originating from the wired corporate line. Users also will have desktop phone abilities on their handsets, and they'll be able to transfer calls, send to voice mail, access corporate voice mail directly, conference other users, and use other services.

This will also give companies the same level of control over their mobile voice networks as they have over their mobile data, RIM said. Businesses will be able to record the dialed and received numbers, and duration of calls that go through the voice server. IT departments also will be able to implement and enforce voice policies. For example, a courier service could set restrictions on its local delivery workers to not have international or long-distance calling.

Some workers already feel tied to their BlackBerry devices, but Heit sees this solution as a better way to manage the balance between work and outside life.

"If you miss an important call because you're not in the office, your boss isn't angry about where you were, just that you missed the call," Heit said. "This lets you take those important calls even if you have to pick up your kids at 3 o'clock."

Additionally, the MVS service lets users maintain a separate cell phone number and line on the handset, so users don't have to give their private numbers to business contacts. The service also enables workers to switch between a desktop phone and the BlackBerry midcall, RIM said.

The MVS server and service is open to existing BES customers for about $8,000 for hardware an installation, and there are no per-user fees.

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