RIM Puts BlackBerry Unite! to Bed; New Groups Collab App on Horizon?
By Al Sacco
Managing Editor, CIO
I’ve got good news and some potentially bad news, at least if you’re a user of Research In Motion’s (RIM) BlackBerry Unite! service. First, the good stuff: A snazzy, new BlackBerry app that will help facilitate information sharing between RIM smartphone users, reportedly dubbed BlackBerry Groups, is expected this summer, according to reports. The not-so-good news? RIM is officially doing away with its existing BlackBerry Unite! service, which it will stop supporting altogether in the summer of 2010.
BlackBerry Unite! lets BlackBerry users share information like contacts and calendar entries without using a BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES). The service was designed mostly for “personal” use so you could, say, share personal events from your handheld’s calendars with BlackBerry-equipped family members and friends. But many small businesses that don’t want to or can’t commit to a full-scale BES deployment also use Unite! for collaboration.
However, RIM recently made the decision to put the kibosh on Unite!, though it will support existing users through July 02, 2010. This isn’t exact surprising; “The end is near” rumors regarding Unite! have been circulating for months. But it wasn’t until last weekend that it cut off Unite! downloads and announced its official plans to discontinue service in the summer of 2010.
Still, RIM’s not hanging its Unite! users out dry. The service will likely be “replaced” with a new, improved collaboration application, according to CrackBerry.com: BlackBerry Groups.
The Groups app will serve much the same purpose as Unite!, but it will be solely on-device, whereas Unite! users have access to a desktop client. BlackBerry Groups should allow various forms of collaboration by granting group members access to location information, to-do lists, contacts and calendars–and based on the leaked screen shot (above), messages from group members and images, as well as BlackBerry Messenger communications.
As pointed out by my colleague, Simon Sage from IntoMobile, BlackBerry Groups could also signal a strategy-shift on RIM’s part toward utilizing its Waterloo, Ontario-based network operations center (NOC) as more than just a “way station” for e-mail and BlackBerry chat messages.
Al Sacco was a journalist, blogger and editor who covers the fast-paced mobile beat for CIO.com and IDG Enterprise, with a focus on wearable tech, smartphones and tablet PCs. Al managed CIO.com writers and contributors, covered news, and shared insightful expert analysis of key industry happenings. He also wrote a wide variety of tutorials and how-tos to help readers get the most out of their gadgets, and regularly offered up recommendations on software for a number of mobile platforms. Al resides in Boston and is a passionate reader, traveler, beer lover, film buff and Red Sox fan.