Glenayre and RIM send a truce message

Two companies seemingly at odds for more than two years since have decided not only to bury the hatchet, but also to work in conjunction to offer next-generation services to their respective customers.

Atlanta-based Glenayre Electronics Inc. and Waterloo, Ont.’s Research In Motion Ltd. (RIM) announced last month that they will work together to integrate Glenayre’s messaging service with RIM’s BlackBerry handheld devices. According to the companies, this collaboration will enable a carrier-grade offering that will provide seamless integration of voice mail, e-mail, fax and text messages on a single device.

Although the two companies declined to comment on their tumultuous past relationship, Senior Analyst Tole Hart with Gartner Dataquest in New York said the hostility stemmed from the patent and trademark infringement filed by RIM last May. Under the terms of the agreement, both parties acknowledged that RIM’s Single Mailbox Integration patent is valid and have agreed to dismiss all pending claims.

According to Joellyn Sargent, vice-president of marketing for Glenayre, the companies have put the past behind them, and added that Glenayre is pleased to be working with RIM to develop next-generation services. Although Sargent would not disclose details of the future services, she said that the agreement with RIM would enable subscribers to stay connected while reducing the number of devices they have to carry.

However, Gartner Dataquest’s Hart said he doesn’t see this as an exclusive deal.

“I don’t know how terribly significant this is,” Gartner Dataquest’s Hart offered. “Glenayre was a big company in paging, but they exited that. Now they are working on unified messaging. They are basically going to try and tie RIM’s platform with their own platform. (Glenayre) will be selling to carriers and RIM to the enterprise. If a carrier wants to sell RIM services to an enterprise, Glenayre acts as a unified messaging box that will pull together messaging or voice mail from the RIM server. RIM is fairly well-known in the enterprise and Glenayre is well-known by carriers. It boosts [Glenayre’s] profile to be associated with RIM.”

However, Hart noted that one of the major issues surrounding unified messaging is interoperability. Hart said that although Canadian carriers signed an interoperability agreement last year, U.S carriers have yet to follow suit.

“Once people start using messaging even a fraction of what they are using in Europe, other ideas for data applications will come about,” Hart said. “Getting e-mail, which is what RIM’s famous for especially among corporate users, will continue to drive these potential services.”

These “potential” services Hart speculated to be real-time access to business documents, as well as an array of consumer-oriented services, such as gaming apps.

One RIM client said that what will likely drive businesses to heed these new services is information on demand. Charles Bennett, director of information systems with Torys, a law firm in Toronto, said that being able to access information, rather than just contacts and calendar items, would be advantageous to customers.

“It would be a great plus for us to be able to access documents…if you needed them from the home server,” Bennett said.

Torys has been a RIM customer since piloting the BlackBerry over two years ago, Bennett said, adding that the BlackBerry offering has aided Torys associates in accessing applications such as e-mail without requiring a laptop.

Glenayre’s Sargent noted that the two companies have begun development of their next-generation services, and anticipated the release of some as early as the end of this year.