I stopped down to RIM's WES (5,000 enterprise mobile pros, ISVs, and carriers) conference in Orlando yesterday. The company's been taking heat lately from Wall Street analysts who seem more interested in watching iPhones rise than tracking BlackBerry units shipped. What you as an information & knowledge management professional should care about is if RIM will be a strong partner in the future. At the conference, I saw six things that give me great confidence that RIM is future-proofing companies' investments in the BlackBerry platform:

  1. BES Express is basic BES for $0. And it's good enough for most employees in most industries. RIM says it's taking off, with 55,000 downloads of the server software since March. And according to RIM, it's designed to scale out to enterprise levels.
  2. BlackBerry 6 is the OS that you've been waiting for. While the mobile world was going WebKit browser, RIM was still Java-only. They've fixed that in the next version of the operating system, due out in Q3 2010. See the video clip for a sneak peak: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DlO8KMv7Bx4. It has a much better browser, better touchscreen features, and a cleaner interface. And with RIM's participation in Adobe's open screens initiative, I expect to see Flash support as well, something iPhone doesn't have.
  3. The Pearl 3G and a new Bold prove that RIM understands fashion and usability. Frankly, these devices are gorgeous. I've always loved the Pearl, but I got tired of the Edge network. With the Pearl 3G, and its optical track pad, 3G, Wi-Fi, better screen, it's a beauty with brains. And it fits into my pocket in a way that the iPhone just doesn't.
  4. RIM's carrier-focus means it will get the attention that you need in every market. 175 carriers. Enough said.
  5. Spectrum optimization continues to be RIM's pride and differentiator. This is a big benefit for those in low-bandwidth areas and for your own wireless networks.
  6. RIM's focus on its mobile collaboration platform is strong. It has a set of what it calls "Super Apps" that are revamped tools focused on messaging and collaboration. The BlackBerry Messenger client is enterprise-ready mobile-to-mobile IM today.

There's a bunch more stuff, including tools to link the device to a PBX, clients for Lotus Connections and Quickr, support from ISVs like BoxTone, and video media distribution tools from its Chalk Pushcast tool.

But there are two more things that companies need:

First, companies need mobile SharePoint. You've got the Lotus suite. Now please work with Microsoft to add robust SharePoint access. (Yes, the upgraded browser will help a lot, but there's more to do.)

Second, we are never again going to be a single-device market. In most large companies, BlackBerry devices will have to co-exist alongside iPhone, Nokia, Android, Windows Phone, and others. But companies need or at least want a single device management solution. Today, they can turn to suppliers like Sybase or Good Technology, but they're most comfortable with BES.

So my ask, RIM, is that you reinvigorate the BlackBerry Built-In program but with strong partnership from HP/Palm, from Microsoft, from Google, and yes even from Apple. In other words, do the device management and encryption as a licensable, royalty-free standard. You'll still own the network and be able to charge those BES network service fees. I believe that it will make good business sense and good customer sense to do so. At least think about it.

Comments? Love to hear them.