BlackBerry Enterprise Server to improve IT management tools

Argon, the codename for RIM's forthcoming BlackBerry Enterprise Server 5.0, will include updates to IT management tools.

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Argon, the codename for RIM's forthcoming BlackBerry Enterprise Server 5.0, will include updates to IT management tools.

Even though only general details have been given, it has emerged that Argon will bring easier control of BlackBerry devices to IT managers.

RIM also said its Mobile Voice System, first announced in May 2007, has been sold to hundreds of businesses and is expected to grow to thousands of customers with the release of Argon and further adoption of unified communications technologies.

Natan Glaich, MIS director for the Jam Industries, a private music distribution company in Montreal, described using MVS to drastically lower phone costs at his company, especially for international travelers who use voice functions on BlackBerry smartphones. He said his costs for the system were about $30,000, but have already been paid back in three months of use by 15 workers.

In one example of greater manageability, Argon will give IT shops the ability to monitor over-the-air BlackBerry activations and software updates, RIM said. Currently, users can activate and update a device wirelessly, but IT managers cannot follow the process to make sure it happens or to spot problems as they occur, said Peter Mitchelmore, RIM's technical product manager.

Additionally, updates will not require users to attach a BlackBerry to a desktop, which one industry analyst called "great," since eliminating the desktop connection can improve security.

Alan Panezic, vice president of platform product management for RIM, called Argon the biggest and most comprehensive release since BlackBerry devices started shipping 10 years ago. The BlackBerry Enterprise Server, affectionately called BES by IT managers, runs inside major corporations to connect workers with BlackBerry devices to e-mail, voice calls, the Web and enterprise applications of all shapes and sizes.

The BlackBerry market has grown so large that several major corporations are now approaching rollouts of 100,000 users, Panezic said. Overall, there are 21 million BlackBerry subscribers globally, including consumers who don't rely on BES to connect wirelessly, a spokeswoman said.

Waterloo, Ontario-based RIM has begun an aggressive focus on the consumer smartphone market in recent months, following the lead of Apple with its iPhone. Panezic admitted that the focus of Argon is on enhancements to help IT administrators, adding, "these are not hugely sexy features to the end user."