by Al Sacco

RIM Exec on Why BlackBerry Mobile Voice System (MVS) Is the Future of Enterprise Unified Communications

May 22, 20086 mins
Data CenterIT LeadershipMobile

Sick of sticking around the office waiting for that last important call? RIM's director of software product management says its Mobile Voice System (MVS) can seamlessly merge your desktop and BlackBerry to eliminate such headaches, help manage your "cellular identity," and much more.

It’s been more than a year since Research In Motion (RIM) first announced its BlackBerry Mobile Voice System (MVS) at the 2007 Wireless Enterprise Symposium (WES), and even though early adopters like Dell and RIM itself are still only in pilot stages of deployment, the company says MVS is one of its most important projects and will shape the future of enterprise telephony–and, on a broader scale, unified communications.

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“We’re going to do for office PBXs what we’ve been doing for office mail servers for a decade,” said Mike Lazaridis, RIM president and co-CEO, during his keynote in front of crowd of nearly 5,000 WES attendees.

The product helps organizations “cut the cord,” in Lazaridis’s words, by merging traditional desktop phone systems with BlackBerry smartphones. The MVS connects to PBXs via organizations’ BlackBerry Enterprise Servers (BES), so communications are secure and all users can be located and authenticated. 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.

“I’m now dedicating all my time to [MVS]” says David Heit, RIM’s director of software product management. In the past, Heit played a major role in the creation of such core RIM offerings as the BlackBerry Mobile Data System (MDS), an application development framework, and the BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES), which helps organizations securely connect corporate mail clients and systems to BlackBerry devices.

A Work In Progress

The first BlackBerry MVS products hit the market last November, and the complete system is fully available to corporate customers, though Heit admits, RIM still has a lot of work to ensure that the MVS supports all the PBXs from Cisco, Avaya and the remaining 25 or so leading PBX vendors.

Call forwarding or call routing products from service providers, wireless carriers and other vendors have been around for years, but one capability that sets RIM’s MVS apart is the ability to retain caller ID information. For instance, if a call from a customer is placed to the desk phone of a MVS user, the BlackBerry will ring and the correct caller ID information will display on the handheld’s screen. And all data is routed through an organizations’ BES before hitting the corporate PBX, according to Heit.

image of BlackBerry Mobile Voice System (MVS) application on a BlackBerry Pearl smartphone
BlackBerry MVS App on Pearl

“For the mobile person, I don’t have to worry about missing my desk phone calls or worrying about the hanging around the office waiting for a call,” Heit says. “I’ll catch the important ones [on my BlackBerry],” and know exactly who’s calling–assuming caller ID information is available.

Heit recalls a recent trip he made to Hawaii. While standing outside a park near a Pearl Harbor Memorial in Honolulu, he received a call on his business line. As he answered and began his conversations, an aircraft carrier sounded a piercing horn as it left the harbor behind him.

“‘Waterloo?,’ the caller said. ‘I didn’t think that was anywhere near an ocean. Wow. I didn’t have a clue that you weren’t in the office’,” Heit says, describing the call. “And I don’t let on that I’m away from work.”

MVS Benefits

What are the top five benefits of the BlackBerry MVS to organizations and their users? Here’s Heit’s take:

1) Control of Corporate Identity

MVS users never need to give out two phone numbers–one for the office and one for the mobile–and their business cards can bear only a single number, as well, Heit says. He has one ringtone for calls to his personal device number and another for call to his corporate number, which lets him know immediately whether it’s a business or personal call. And because caller ID information is retained, he never has to answer a call from a blocked or unknown number only to find out it’s a “pesky sales person” or other party he’d rather avoid.

2) Freedom to Work In and Out of the Office With Confidence

Calls to desk phones are forwarded to MVS users’ BlackBerrys, so they can come and go as they like from the office and feel confident important calls will securely make it to their mobile phones.

3) Cost Savings

Calls to and from MVS users’ BlackBerrys use a data connection to communicate through their BES and to a PBX, so long distance and international wireless charges can be reduced and even avoided. And if IT administrators want some devices to be used only through the PBX and not with a wireless account to avoid wireless charges, they can lock down the phones via BES IT policy, he says.

4) Asset Tracking

MVS users communicate via data connection and the BES, so IT administrators can determine where they are, who they’re calling and where the callers on the other end are located, allowing for improved asset tracking and cost-management capabilities.

5) Security and Authentication

Users’ BlackBerrys are identified and authenticated via BES anytime they place or receive a call, so unauthorized parties can’t listen in on conference calls or other private communications. The conferencing calling arrangements many organizations currently employ, where parties in disparate locations call in to an 800 or 866 number, leave room for intruders because there’s nothing stopping anyone who obtained the number and access code from eavesdropping, according to Heit.

The Future is Bright

Once issues with PBX compatibility and corporate systems integration are ironed out, the BlackBerry Mobile Voice system will become much more than just a way to link desk and mobile phones, Heit says.

For instance, he says users will eventually be able to send a meeting invite through a calendar application, using the BES free/busy lookup function to check availability, and a then communicate with both PBX and a conferencing service to schedule the time and confirm participants. The system will then be able to initiate the meeting at the appropriate time and all participants will receive phone calls and be automatically connected to the conferencing system.

“We’re just at the start,” Heit says. “Five years from now, this is going to be fantastic.”