BlackBerry enterprise server zooms in on IT management tools

officials Wednesday offered a broad-brush preview of Argon, the codename for RIM's Enterprise Server 5.0, which is expected to launch sometime in the second quarter.

The presentation to about 20 reporters provided the opportunity to see a new interface that will be used by IT managers that deploy 5.0, but only general details were given. Primarily, Argon will bring easier manageability of BlackBerry devices to IT managers, RIM officials said.

RIM also said its Mobile Voice System, first announced in May 2007, has been sold to hundreds of businesses and is expected to grow to thousands of customers with the release of Argon and further adoption of unified communications technologies.

Natan Glaich, MIS director for the Jam Industries Ltd., a private music distribution company in Montreal, described using MVS to drastically lower phone costs at his company, especially for international travelers who use voice functions on BlackBerry smartphones. He said his costs for the system were about US$30,000, but have already been paid back in three months of use by 15 workers.

In one example of greater manageability, Argon will give IT shops the ability to monitor over-the-air BlackBerry activations and software updates, RIM said. Currently, users can activate and update a device wirelessly, but IT managers cannot follow the process to make sure it happens or to spot problems as they occur, said Peter Mitchelmore, RIM's technical product manager.

Additionally, updates will not require users to attach a BlackBerry to a desktop, which one industry analyst called "great," since eliminating the desktop connection can improve security.