Jack of all trades

If there was one clear trend at the Research in Motion-sponsored Wireless Enterprise Symposium in Orlando, Fla., in early May, it was that the company seems intent on taking its BlackBerry platform mainstream.

BlackBerry has long had a stranglehold on the federal market, thanks to its prompt push e-mail services, direct personal-identification number communications channel and, above all, its security.

Although BlackBerry doesn't seem likely to lose federal users, WES 2007 clearly indicated that RIM is seeking broader markets. Yes, the approximately 100 exhibitors included vendors offering enterprise-level backup solutions and tools for remote network management and emergency communications. But another sort of vendor was present as well: Four or five offered personal navigation tools. Also, there was software for playing music on the BlackBerry.

And RIM followed up on its introduction of the consumer-oriented Pearl with previews of the Curve. The Curve is essentially similar to the soon-to-be-released 8830, with a full QWERTY keyboard. But in addition to sporting a glitzier design, the Curve also offers a built-in camera and a music player, features that would be drawbacks in most enterprises and certainly in the federal sector.

RIM's introduction of a BlackBerry plug-in for Microsoft Visual Studio also marks the company's move into broader commercial markets.

The lack of third-party software has kept many consumers from moving to the BlackBerry platform, and opening the platform to Visual Studio-based developers could prove to be key in helping the company find a broader market.

About the Author

Patrick Marshall is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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