By Lauren Simonds
Blackberry envy. It’s a phenomenon that can afflict small business owners who believe the highly popular (and some say addictive) smartphone is intended only for corporate giants with well-funded IT departments. You may be surprised to know that RIM provides wireless software applications designed specifically for small business, including its most recent offering, Blackberry Professional Software.
The new software is designed to support up to 30 mobile employees and, according to Alan Panezic, RIM’s vice president of software product management, two research studies helped RIM create a product that specifically addresses the top needs of small business.
“A study done by IDC in 2004 showed that 52 percent of all mobile workers are in the small business market, which RIM defines as fewer than 100 employees,” he said. Further, Panezic noted that an August, 2007 study by Angus Reid Strategies revealed that 78 percent of SMBs are interested in wireless communication, and it identified the respondents’ top concerns as follows:
- 30 percent: SMBs that list low software price as a concern and that consider $500-$1,000 as the optimal price range
- 20 percent: SMBs that list technical support as a concern that prefer online self-support or basic support
- 15 percent: SMBs that list solution type as a concern and that prefer to run the software on an existing e-mail server
- 8 percent: SMBs that list security as a concern and that want a high level of security
“The bottom line is that small businesses want a wireless solution that won’t blow the budget,” said Panezic. “They want something that’s affordable, that’s simple to install and to manage and that provides core functionality. They want mobility as long as it translates into productivity.”
RIM claims that its Blackberry Professional Software (BPS) offers just that. Unlike the enterprise version, BPS does not require a dedicated server; you can run it on an existing server, such as an e-mail server that, Panezic said, both eliminates the need to invest in more hardware and server licenses and reduces the amount of IT support required for setup and ongoing management.
The software also supports up to 30 wireless workers, and it provides e-mail, shared calendars, appointments, Web browsing and remote access. “It shares the same DNA as RIM’s enterprise software, but we’ve removed all the complexity that doesn’t make sense or add value for SMBs,” he said.
Other Key Features
- Support for E-mail Systems: Integration with Microsoft Exchange or IBM Lotus Domino, allowing a full complement of synchronized wireless services including access to e-mail, calendar, contacts, notes and tasks.
- Simple Installation: A pre-install assistant utility accesses the server and recommends a configuration speeding and simplifying installation.
- Easy Management: BlackBerry Manager Interface centralizes most management tasks; wizards and quick-links help you change common functions such as adding or deleting an account. Pre-defined IT policy templates simplify setting up IT policies.
- Advanced Security: Uses the same certified security architecture and encryption system of the BlackBerry Enterprise Server.
- BlackBerry Mobile Data System Support: Lets customers extend internal applications to mobile employees and use any of the thousands of third-party applications developed for the BlackBerry platform.
You can download a single-license version Blackberry Professional Software for free from RIM. A five-license bundle sells for $499 and a 10-license bundle sells for $849 (you can buy additional licenses as your company needs grow).
RIM has a limited-time offer running until Nov. 30, 2007: If you purchase five new Blackberry Smartphones (any model), you can download the five-person, $499 software package for free.
Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of SmallBusinessComputing.com