Firm looks to make BlackBerry sweeter

The legions of Research in Motion Ltd. (RIM) BlackBerry users addicted to wireless e-mail in the U.S. will soon have a new set of both hardware and software options to get their fix from, thanks to a trio of announcements made Thursday by Good Technology Inc., but Canadian users will have to wait a while longer to get the same offerings.

Good Technology is offering a line of wireless communication software and hardware targeted at the enterprise that will allow users to continuously and wirelessly synchronize BlackBerry and Good Technology devices with Microsoft Corp. Exchange servers, retrieving e-mail, calendars, contact information and more, as well as drawing data out of other Web-enabled applications.

The first component of the company’s strategy is GoodLink, a server and application that will facilitate the transfer of data from Exchange to BlackBerry and Good Technology wireless devices, said Andrea Cook Fleming, vice-president of marketing for Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Good Technology. GoodLink will run on the full line of BlackBerry devices, as well as on Good Technology’s own forthcoming device, she said. GoodLink will allow users access to their e-mail messages and e-mail attachments, calendars, contact lists, notes and tasks from Exchange using U.S.-based Cingular Wireless LLC’s wireless network, she said. Unlike the BlackBerry, which requires a physical synchronizing of the device to a desktop PC, GoodLink will allow users to wirelessly synchronize their data constantly, she said.

GoodLink will ship for the RIM platform first, with support for the Good Technology device coming in the summer when that device is released, she said. Users who install GoodLink on their BlackBerry devices will receive all their service from Good Technology and Cingular. Customers will be billed by Good Technology, though they can maintain their BlackBerry service as well if they choose, she added.

Beyond the wireless synchronizing, GoodLink will be attractive to enterprises because it doesn’t require any deployment of hardware or software to desktops since all the synchronizing is done with the GoodLink server, she said. The easier deployment will save IT departments both time and money, she said.

The company also announced a second software product, GoodInfo, that will give GoodLink users access to data stored in any Web-enabled applications, such as the those from SAP AG or Siebel Systems Inc., she said. GoodInfo is a query tool that allows users to send forms requesting information to the Web-enabled application and have the data returned to the user as an e-mail, she said.

Finally, Good will offer a hardware device for its software and service to run on in the third quarter, she said. Though the software will already run on RIM devices, the Good G100 provides some improvements over the BlackBerry, she said. The device, which looks much like a BlackBerry and has similar dimensions, will offer a small keyboard, a scroll bar in the centre of the device and a greyscale screen, she said.

The G100 will start out running on the same network that the BlackBerry uses, but will transfer to the 2.5G wireless network once that becomes more widely deployed, she said. When that network is more available, Good Technology will update its software to run on a variety of 2.5G devices and may discontinue the G100, though it would retain the device if customers wanted it, she said.

So far the company has not announced any plans to extend its offerings to the Canadian market, a spokesperson said, although she did not say the company will avoid the market here altogether.

Good Technology expects to find a lot of business in the U.S. enterprise realm despite the established market of the BlackBerry, Fleming said.

“There’s a lot of awareness of the BlackBerry product,” but not many large-scale business deployments, she said.

“The market is there and the IT guys are there with their wireless dollars,” but the BlackBerry is too expensive to deploy, something Good’s technology won’t be, she said.

The GoodLink Server costs US$3,000 for unlimited users and is currently shipping in the U.S., she said. Once that server is installed, a company must pay Good a one-time fee of US$50 per user and then a recurring fee of US$45 per user per month for service, she said. GoodInfo and the G100 will ship over the summer, she said. Pricing has not been set on the final two products.

Good Technology’s story resonates with Isaac Ro, an analyst with the Aberdeen Group Inc.

“Good Technology’s solution is really interesting because it takes a couple steps beyond RIM,” offering better synchronization and Outlook access than RIM, he said.

The company’s offering is “pretty seamless,” he added.

Good Technology has a strong suite of products, especially GoodLink, and should be able to tap in to the “relatively strong pent-up demand” for these sorts of services, he said.

The company’s suite “stands out as the best one I’ve seen,” besting even Palm Inc.’s i705 and Handspring Inc.’s Treo, he said. “None of them have provided this level of integration.”

RIM hasn’t expanded its business enough and hasn’t pushed the development of new features for its devices, he said. Because of this and the strength of its offerings, Good Technology is poised to steal business from RIM, Ro said.

Because Good is still a startup, though, the company has “really got to get in and get a couple of major account wins,” as well as build awareness, he said.

“(Easy wireless e-mail) is something everyone is racing to deliver” and the sooner Good Technology becomes entrenched, the better it will be for their business, he said.

“RIM’s certainly not going to take this lying down,” he said. “Palm and Handspring (won’t) either.”

– With files from IDG News Service