Research In Motion Ltd will next week announce release 4.1 of its BlackBerry Enterprise Server that, despite sounding like a mere feature release, includes significant enhancements, including the ability to use web services to develop applications and support for instant messaging.
The launch comes as the Waterloo, Ontario-based developer continues to fight the patent infringement lawsuit that threatens to force a suspension of its services to its three million US subscribers, so it is clearly of great importance that it be seen to be enabling mobile applications beyond email and personal information management.
The addition of IM serves to underscore RIM’s claim to being an enabler of collaboration generally. These features will not, in and of themselves, save it from share price meltdown if the US federal court rules in favour of its litigant NTP Inc, but it may at least reinforce the resolve of subscribers elsewhere in the world to stick with their BlackBerry services.
The Web services capability joins browser-based access and RIM’s Java development environment as a way for companies to deliver apps to their BlackBerry users, and of course, in as much as they will be able to harness public Web services such as forex prices, they should make for a speedier development process.
The capability is thus part of RIM’s Mobile Data System offering for enabling mobile access to apps and consists of three elements, all of them free for companies on BES service contracts with rights to automatic upgrade to v4.1. They are:
– MDS Studio, with which a company’s internal developers will be able to couple access to public Web services with private ones such as its internal SAP system, view the result and publish it to the corporate users requiring it;
– MDS Runtime, which enables the windowing and screens required for the service to be delivered to the devices; and
– MDS Services, which handles the communication between the BES and the Web service itself.
Release 4.1 also brings improvements in ease of management and support, as well as a broadening of the collaborative capabilities of BlackBerry from email to IM, with support for the three main enterprise IM platforms, i.e. the IM services within Microsoft’s Live Communication Server, IBM’s Sametime and Novell’s GroupWise Messenger.
On the ease of management side, product marketing director David Wilmering said the main enhancements are the addition of role-based administration, with five different tiers from junior helpdesk agent to superuser, enabling different classes of people managing different things, and group-based administration, which means people in a particular group or team will be able to have a standard image or set of access rights and so on.