The folks at Research In Motion seem to be keeping busy during the long Waterloo winter. Hard on the heels of the beta release of Twitter for BlackBerry, RIM today announced free push service for small and medium businesses and the first glimpse at a new and presumably much improved BlackBerry browser.
BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express is a free, somewhat stripped down version of RIM’s heavyweight BlackBerry Enterprise Server. It lets small to medium size businesses, or departments within larger enterprises, that operate their own Microsoft Exchange servers (including the Small Business Server version) run the rich BES push service.
BES Express will support up to 75 users when run on server running Exchange and up to 2,000 users when run on a dedicated server. One significant difference from its big brother is that it supports just 35 server-based policies, compared with more than 350 on the full BES. It also works only with Exchange, not Lotus Notes, and does not include the BES Mobile Voice System.
For users used only to mobile mail through the BlackBerry Internet Service, BES will be a revelation. Mail handling is much more efficient, with full access to all folders and near-instant over-the-air sync of calendar, contacts, and tasks. It can also be set up to give mobile access to server-based documents and applications.
Until now the best way for smaller organizations to take advantage of BES has been to used outsourced Exchange services that offer a BES option. These typically cost about $25 per user per month, but take on all the administrative burden of running Exchange and BES. Whether you run BES in-house or hosted, you’ll also have to pay a BlackBerry surcharge to your wireless carrier.
The browser announcement, made at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, was a bit airier. RIM co-CEO Mike Lazaridis said the a new browser, based on the same Webkit code that powers the Safari, Android, Palm WebOS, and Google Chrome browsers, would be available later this year. Such a move has been expect since RIM acquired Webkit specialist Torch Mobile last year. What was unclear was whether the new browser would be available as an upgrade to existing BlackBerrys. We can only hope so, since the browser is by far the lamest part of the Blackberry experience.