Research In Motion (RIM) made its big move to merge traditional corporate desk phones with its own BlackBerry smartphone more than two years ago with the BlackBerry Mobile Voice System (MVS). But today, RIM is finally stepping up its efforts to grab enterprise eyes and create new MVS users across the United States via a partnership with T-Mobile U.S.A.
T-Mobile will soon offer RIM's BlackBerry MVS to its enterprise customers as part of the carrier's new "Wi-Fi Calling with MobileOffice" service.
The core benefit behind BlackBerry MVS: business users can receive calls made to their work landlines on their mobile phones. Because the system employs Wi-Fi calling, where available, it can potentially save businesses significant wireless service charges, according to RIM. It reduces the need for businesspeople to physically be in the office. And many of the features available via corporate telephone systems, such as quick extension dialing and direct-to-voice-mail functionality, become available via BlackBerry.
T-Mobile is attempting to break into the enterprise with this business-specific offering, a rare move for the carrier, which has traditionally focused on cheaper or "affordable" service offerings for consumers--at least in the United States.
T-Mobile already offers a similar service to its consumer customers, called "T-Mobile HotSpot@Home," which lets users place unlimited Wi-Fi calls while they're on their own personal Wi-Fi networks. Wi-Fi Calling with MobileOffice take this idea a few steps further, by merging corporate PBXs with RIM's BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES), so customers can not only place Wi-Fi calls, but also do so via BlackBerry using both their mobile numbers and desk-phone lines.
The idea is an interesting one; I've been intrigued since I first heard about MVS when RIM announced the service in the spring of 2007, at its annual Wireless Enterprise Symposium (WES). Exactly one year later, I sat down with RIM's Director of Software Product Management, David Heit, and the BlackBerry-exec tried to convince me that the service is the future of enterprise communications.
RIM's co-CEO Mike Lazaridis agrees, and he told the roughly 5,000 WES 2008 attendees so:
"We're going to do for office PBXs what we've been doing for office mail servers for a decade," Lazaridis said.
The problem? Since that bold pronouncement, I've yet to hear of any significant uptake of BlackBerry MVS in the enterprise. In fact, businesses seem to be hesitant to jump on the BlackBerry-MVS-bandwagon, because the technology--merging BES and other infrastructure with corporate PBX--is new and relatively untested. RIM and other tech heavies like Dell have been using BlackBerry MVS for some time, but they seem to be the exceptions to the rule.
Also, RIM hasn't made any significant marketing effort to promote BlackBerry MVS, beyond pitching the service to existing customers and showing it off at private events and/or tradeshows. The T-Mobile announcement is the BlackBerry-maker's first major public effort to push BlackBerry MVS to U.S. businesses, to my knowledge.
No specific pricing details are available, but T-Mobile will reportedly negotiate costs with companies on an individual basis, and customers with more than 100 T-Mobile voice- and data-service lines will get free national and international Wi-Fi calls via BlackBerry. Customers with fewer than 100 phone lines will be charged $9.99 per line, per month, according to PCWorld.com.
And of course, users will need to employ Wi-Fi/UMA-enabled T-Mobile BlackBerrys such as the BlackBerry Pearl 8120, Pearl 8220, Curve 8320, Curve 8900 or the upcoming Bold 9700 to take advantage of the Wi-Fi-calling features.
I think RIM's BlackBerry MVS is packed with potential. And I suspect it will find its place in the enterprise, even if it takes years and that place proves to be only among a select few technologically-advanced organizations. The benefits are clear, but it remains to be seen whether or not RIM, T-Mobile and possible future carrier partners can convince enterprises that those benefits are worth the new technology's associated challenges.
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