There are more than eight million users of Research In Motion’s BlackBerry devices, which let users check their corporate e-mail, manage their calendars and access contact lists — and have a way of quickly becoming a necessary lifeline for customers. If you’re a BlackBerry user, you understand. RIM’s president and co-CEO Mike Lazaridis sat down with Network World Senior Editor Denise Pappalardo Tuesday at the FOSE IT-in-government trade show in Washington, D.C. Lazaridis — who, of course, was tapping away on his BlackBerry before the interview got underway — talked about how RIM is working toward adding more enterprise capabilities to its BlackBerry devices, how the company views Microsoft’s support of push e-mail, and how he feels about the device’s nicknames.
What is RIM doing to extend BlackBerry’s capabilities beyond e-mail for enterprise customers?
Sometimes it’s important to state the obvious, but we support the major e-mail platforms — Exchange, Lotus Notes and GroupWise — and have for years. We have an in-depth, broad understanding of how to implement these systems. But we did that years ago.
Since then we have been working with third-party software developers who have written applications for the BlackBerry system. There are more business-related wireless applications, especially push applications, for the BlackBerry platform than anything else. There are over 650 developers writing these applications, which include hundreds, for the BlackBerry installed base of 8 million users and growing.
You don’t have to get third-party middleware or another secure channel to support these applications. They have the same accredited security as the BlackBerry environment, and you can just plug in these applications. Users can even push Java apps directly to devices in the field. This makes BlackBerries highly valued in the Fortune 1000s around the world.
It seems like nearly all wireless service providers offer BlackBerries today. How many wireless service providers offer the device?
It’s available on 225 networks in over 100 countries.
How do you measure the success of your enterprise application development beyond e-mail? Can you break that down into percentage of revenue or traffic growth?
Over the last three years I think it has become very successful. Well over 70% of the installed base is passing data other than e-mail, calendar and contacts. A lot of companies have discovered the power of the push browser.
Microsoft recently added push e-mail support to its Windows Mobile platform. Some have speculated that this move commoditizes the market.How do you view the move?
The market is just starting. It’s far from commoditized. Opportunities continue to be vast. We have done e-mail a long time ago, and I think it’s amazing it has taken others so long to say they have push e-mail.
How does Microsoft’s support of push e-mail change how RIM sells into the enterprise?
We have always sold on the fact that our system works and has been proven in very large deployments — 50,000-plus. It’s proven to be scalable, manageable and secure. We have more global accreditations than any other solution. In some countries it’s the only approved solution for government and military. RIM has been viewed as financial success by most.
How does the company’s restatement announcement impact that perception?
[RIM’s public relations representative says the company is in a “quiet period” and that Lazaridis will not be able to answer any questions regarding finances.]
With that said, how about a couple of fun questions. The BlackBerry has had some nicknames over the years. First, “the hamburger” when it had a clamshell form factor. That was the big one. It was affectionately named the hamburger. And more recently, Crackberry. How do you view those nicknames? Would you rather they weren’t used?
What’s important about the BlackBerry product is people are able to use it very quickly and realize its value almost immediately. Our greatest challenge has been getting that message out. Until you try it, you hear these nicknames, but they don’t register.
You don’t mind the nicknames?
Well, I didn’t come up with them so . . .
I understand that you won a technical Emmy award and a technical Oscar some years ago. Where does that fall in your list of accolades and achievements?
It shows we have always been innovative at RIM. In this case it was being able to read barcodes that are on motion picture film as it was going through a machine at very high speeds. Up until that point, no one could do it. We came up with technology that could do it, and we got patents on them, and it quickly became the standard in the industry. We’ve always been solving big problems.
Any more film developments in the future?
No. We sold that business.