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Research In Motion (RIM)'s dual-mode BlackBerry 8820 with its cellular and Wi-Fi connectivity sounds cool, but the value for the enterprise won't go beyond speedier Web surfing, experts said.
The functionality will be useful for looking up things like stocks, traffic and weather, especially given the Wi-Fi hotspots cropping up around the major cities – like Community Wireless Toronto, B.C. Wireless, Île Sans Fil, and Saskatchewan! Connected, to name a handful.
But better yet, if a job requires data surfing on the road, then it can potentially be accomplished at a lower cost to the business than it would on a conventional cellular interface, said Jon Arnold, principal of Toronto, Ont.-based Jon Arnold & Associates.
Being Wi-Fi-enabled will make for better and more efficient Internet browsing, given the higher throughput users will get, said Arnold. "It's a better Web experience, so you're going to have faster downloads."
The value that Wi-Fi-enabled BlackBerries brings to the enterprise is the access and efficient use of Web-based applications, like e-mail and cell phone, said Roberta Fox, senior partner with Mount Albert, Ont.-based Fox Group Telecom Consulting. "Having a higher speed data throughput is really the exciting part," said Fox.
In particular, industries like the mobility business workforce will benefit (dispatch, transportation), and campus-like environments (academic institutions, factories), she said.
The new Wi-Fi capability isn't going to enhance the process of checking e-mail, Arnold thinks, because not only can the task be done pretty much anywhere, but businesses likely won't encourage employees to conduct confidential transactions via this channel. "I don't think you're going to be doing your really sensitive secret stuff over Wi-Fi."
Arnold acknowledged the security concerns that businesses would have with public, unlicensed spectrums, like Wi-Fi hotspots, especially considering RIM's own security network is far superior to that found in Wi-Fi hotspots. "There's more vulnerability there," he said.
Besides the potential for corporate data leakage, Fox is concerned that employees will become increasingly dependent on their mobile devices. "There will be more things sitting on this device, what happens when it gets stolen?"
Given those fears, businesses generally don't condone usage of Wi-Fi access for business transactions – actually, she said, IT departments should implement and enforce technology management policies around such devices whether it's cellular or Wi-Fi use.
Secure-sensitive corporations in particular, thinks Fox, will likely not embrace the Wi-Fi functionality.
Besides Web surfing, Arnold believes a Wi-Fi-enabled BlackBerry will mean cost savings on VOIP phone calls – a legitimate enough driver for any business.