RIM Releases Blackberry Server Software For Free

Traditionally, if you’re a small business and you want your Blackberries to have all the calendar, contacts, notes, and task syncing functions that large enterprises enjoy, you were out of luck unless you were willing to pay for BlackBerry Enterprise Server which is not cheap by any standard. RIM changed that yesterday by announcing BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express which has the really attractive price of $0. Really, it’s free. Their press release says so:

The new BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express software will be provided free of charge in order to address two key market opportunities. First, the software offers economical advantages to small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) that desire the enterprise-grade security and manageability of BlackBerry® Enterprise Server but don’t require all of its advanced features. Second, more and more consumers are purchasing BlackBerry smartphones and the free BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express software provides a cost-effective solution that enables IT departments to meet the growing demand from employees to be able to connect their personal BlackBerry smartphones to their work email.

BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express works with Microsoft Exchange 2010, 2007 and 2003 and Microsoft Windows Small Business Server 2008 and 2003 to provide users with secure, push-based, wireless access to email, calendar, contacts, notes and tasks, as well as other business applications and enterprise systems behind the firewall. Importantly, the new server software utilizes the same robust security architecture found in BlackBerry Enterprise Server.

Now of course there is no such thing as a free lunch, and this holds true for Blackberry Enterprise Server Express. It’s missing many of the high availability and IT management features of it’s big brother, but that’s likely not going to be a factor for small business types. Also, it’s limited to 75 users which I don’t think will bother too many small business types either.

Why is RIM doing this? I’m guessing that this is another part of RIMs attempt to broaden it’s customer base outside large corporate entities. These types of customers may want to consider other options (read: iPhone) if RIM didn’t have an option for them. Seeing as they make most of their money from getting a cut of the subscription fees, that’s a good move on their part. We’ll see if that helps to keep the iPhone at bay in the corporate space.

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