BlackBerry Blossoms in iPhone battle

The BlackBerry smartphone has become an essential piece of kit for many CIOs and the workforces they serve, not to mention the President of the USA. But the BlackBerry has come under pressure from Apple's innovative iPhone and other smartphones and, as a result, its manufacturer Research In Motion (RIM) has been furiously polishing new devices and underlying software.

Meanwhile, BlackBerry users have begun to drive the application agenda in their workplaces - and in some instances have even left their CIOs to play catch up.

RIM argues that it is responding to user-led demand for new and different applications in fields like mapping, banking and social networking, but it also says that it can empower the CIO to take control of mobile estates. This summer, RIM is aiming to gain the edge with the latest version of its enterprise server software, BlackBerry- Enterprise Server (BES) 5, codenamed Argon. As well as linking users to email, voice calls, web sites, and enterprise applications like SAP, RIM says it has improved support for native, web and third-party business applications, and added impressive new features at the front-end.

"With BES 5, we are putting in the infrastructure to allow CIOs to lead the charge into mobile rather than feeling like they are holding the barbarians back at the gate," says Alan Panezic, vice president of software product management at RIM. "One of the things we have focused on has been enabling applications. It's not just about limiting and controlling them and removing them from the device. It's about giving the IT manger more confidence, so they can white-list certain applications if they find, for example, a mapping application enables the business."

Most BES users are currently on the three-year old version 4.16 and may be reluctant to upgrade, but Panezic is optimistic that a focus on management priorities will help.

"We have taken all our engineering talent and the lessons we have learned from being in the market these past 10 years and applied them all to BES 5," he says. "We have introduced a lot of things that are aimed directly at the CIO and the CIO's staff, not forgetting that there are end-user elements in there that will motivate the change."