Gartner motions a RIM upgrade

Gartner likes RIM's decision to open up the BlackBerry platform to other mobile handset makers, but is concerned about how closed the devices are to competitor gateway providers.

Gartner Inc. has issued a research note upgrading Research In Motion Ltd.'s rating to "positive" in light of the vendor's decision to open its BlackBerry platform to other mobile handset makers, giving users a potential choice of devices for wireless e-mail and other BlackBerry applications.

The Stamford, Conn.-based research firm routinely announces such ratings upgrades or amendments when a vendor remedies dubious strategies. This is a system in which Gartner takes a pulse on businesses in the marketplace based on its research.

Ken Dulaney, Gartner vice president of mobile computing, said a main reason for the upgrade was RIM's decision to port the platform to other devices. For example, Dulaney said, T-Mobile USA Inc.'s MDA II and the Siemens SK65 smart phone offer Blackberry functionality, and other companies are planning such devices.

There are two programs, according to Dulaney, under which RIM has expanded devices: Blackberry Connect and Blackberry Built-In. Blackberry Connect permits a manufacturer to use Java and other applications to connect to the Blackberry infrastructure. Blackberry Built-In uses the entire Blackberry set of Java tools and applications to build a device.

Dulaney said opening up the platform makes sense strategically for RIM, but there are still issues. He said RIM's efforts with BlackBerry Built-In have only begun and will need time to mature. Gartner states that RIM needs to extend development tools, back-end support, and systems engineering and adaptation capabilities.

For more information

Learn more about the device market in our year in review.

Read our exclusive on the possible attack of the BlackBerry clones.

 "With Blackberry Built-In, it puts RIM in the position of really selling their platform," Dulaney said. "It's kind of a new direction for them, and it could represent a move to put them in much more direct competition with Microsoft, who's selling the smart phone platform."

By doing this, Dulaney said, RIM is essentially selling its own platform and giving phone manufacturers a complete software stack. To put that on the phone, they control more than just e-mail gateway; they control the platform as well.

Dulaney said he was concerned with the devices because they seem to be closed to competing gateway providers, and that leaves only a RIM-exclusive platform when customers may want other BlackBerry hardware. The report suggested IT buyers monitor progress of the BlackBerry Built-In and Connect programs to ensure that more devices become available.

Dulaney said that while large application framework players such as SAP have begun to support BlackBerry, the applications are still fairly rudimentary for several reasons. He said the devices themselves don't have a lot of horsepower, and don't offer the robust offline client that you might see on the Microsoft devices.

Dulaney expects RIM to fix that this year by adding third-party hardware and improving its own hardware. He also expects RIM to upgrade its processor and other capabilities this year with other devices.

"Blackberry has to become a strategic play inside various companies," Dulaney said. "With that said, RIM is definitely establishing itself a beachhead within many of our clients."

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