Pros and Cons of BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express

Research In Motion's new mobile exchange platform -- the free BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express, -- strengthens RIM's position in the smartphone market while meeting the needs of mobile IT who view the full version as "overkill," according to one analyst.

The BES Express version, available in March as a mobile download from RIM (NASDAQ: RIMM), erases the fees associated with the full version of BES, which costs $2999 per server and $99 per CAL. The light version will also provide more flexibility, as it works with any BlackBerry on any data plan, compared to BES, which currently requires an enterprise data plan.

BES Express has some features and functions disabled that are available on the full version, but for many organizations, BES Express provides everything needed to deploy and manage a fleet of BlackBerrys.

"We see this as a very important move to solidify and enhance BlackBerry’s lead in the expanding and increasingly competitive smartphone market," Jack Gold, founder and principal analyst at J.Gold Associates, said in a research note.

Gold cites the growing trend of personal smartphones being used in the workplace as a major reason why mobile IT faced with a fragmented mobile landscape will be quick to adopt BES Express.

"The smartphone market is changing. Many vendors are now competing for business users -- for instance the iPhone is gaining in the enterprise, Android is maturing and debuting on dozens of new handhelds and Palm's nascent WebOS is trailing but still in the race.

"Most vendors have licensed ActiveSync from Microsoft to allow connection to e-mail and PIM functions on Exchange. Furthermore, many organizations now allow their end users to personally select a smartphone rather than standardizing on a single device for everyone. We expect to see 25 to 35 percent of enterprise smartphones become personally liable devices within one to two years, with numbers even higher in SMB," said Gold.

Mobile Exchange Trend: Going 'Free-Style'

Given this trend, many organizations are opting to deploy the "free-style" way of doing things, said Gold, utilizing the embedded push e-mail from Exchange to any ActiveSync enabled device.

"This has put BlackBerry at a cost disadvantage, even though its premium BES has far more management and security capabilities than free-style services. Enterprises value BES’s extensive capabilities especially for high-value mission-critical worker applications, but not all businesses do.

"This is especially true in mid-tier and smaller organizations where the benefits of a full IT staff to manage the capabilities of BES are often not present, where usage is primarily or exclusively for e-mail, where costs are not easily amortized across many users, and where outsourcing the services may not be attractive. Companies often view the full features of a BES as overkill," said Gold.

BES Express changes all of that by eliminating most costs and providing a convenient way to include BlackBerrys into the mix of mobile devices for those companies and employees who want one.

Still, the slimmed-down version has some limitations. "In its current version, it connects to Exchange e-mail (both full Exchange and Small Business Server versions), but not Notes/Domino or GroupWise. Further, it has a small subset of policies (35 compared to 450 for BES). It does not allow Over the Air provisioning (OTA) of devices, which BES does allow. Companies may run Express on the same server as Exchange, with a limitation of 75 users, or it can be run on a stand alone server and scale to support thousands of users. But Express will not support add-on functionality. Many of the newer social networking and voice applications (e.g., MVS, SNAP) require being added to a full version of BES," according to Gold.

However, BES Express will still be a value for smaller businesses embracing the support of multiple mobile platforms, which in turn, will help RIM shore up its position in the increasingly competitive handheld computer market. "Companies don’t want to invest in new systems (e.g. BES) if only a fraction of their users will utilize it. But making Express free allows those companies who avoided deploying BlackBerrys due to the cost of BES to do so now in their free-style environment. This also allows end users to select BlackBerry as their device of choice, even though the company has not," said Gold.

TAGS:

Blackberry, mobile IT, RIM, BES, BlackBerry OS

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