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Fill it to the RIM

Attention CTOs: BlackBerry devices aren’t just for e-mail anymore.




By Ellen Daley

In an effort to stay one step ahead of the markets, financial service companies were some of the first organizations to capitalize on RIM’s BlackBerry for wireless e-mail. As a result, brokers, bankers and wholesalers improved their work quality and communication. Today, as executives are asked to do more with less—improve employee productivity and customer service while still saving money—many CTOs are asking: How can I further leverage my RIM hardware and monthly service investment?

Maturity in two technology areas is affording the opportunity to extend enterprise applications, specifically CRM, to the RIM, thereby offering critical information at the point of need.

  • Higher speed networks

BlackBerry devices (as well as other wireless data devices) were initially deployed on slow data networks (Motient, Mobitex) that restricted the devices to small messages that did not require significant bandwidth (9.6-19.4 kbps). E-mail (without attachments) proved to be optimal. A broker could communicate quickly with his home office, clients and partners to make faster, better-informed business decisions. In the past two years, however, new, higher-speed 2.5G networks have begun to offer significantly increased bandwidth (30-70 kbps). These speeds offer the opportunity to deploy applications and exchange data beyond e-mail. The types of applications now available are extensions of standard enterprise systems, such as CRM. It is important to note that this movement to higher-speed networks is not exclusive to RIM devices. Companies are also upgrading to 2.5G (GPRS, CDMA 1xRTT) networks for many other devices.

  • Java cevelopment platform

The RIM development platform has migrated from C++ to Java. This means enterprises can leverage their internal Java skill sets to develop RIM-based solutions. While there are certainly differences between Java server development versus Java device development, the concepts are consistent. Furthermore, the use of a Java Virtual machine, which the RIM J2ME platform promises, offers the potential of write-once, run anywhere. In reality, the concept of write-once, run anywhere requires more maturity. However, the move from a C++ approach to Java with a full SDK ensures that mobile solutions can be developed more quickly.

Although there is the opportunity to leverage the large RIM installed base, there are also challenges in developing applications for the RIM.

  • Usability

RIM devices have been optimized for e-mail. Porting enterprise applications such as CRM to such small form factors does not happen with the flip of a switch. The RIM application must be designed with care to ensure the it is intuitive. The most important success indicator for new mobile solutions is end-user adoption. If accessing the data is cumbersome, users will not adopt the solution and the initiative will fail.

  • Java device standards

The Java development platform does not fully deliver on the write once, deploy anywhere concept because of a lack of device standards. Therefore, even if you have back-end systems deployed in Java, deploying to a RIM device is not that simple. Furthermore, rewriting the presentation layer often requires the recoding of various Java components to ensure optimal data access.

The benefits of the faster networks and more robust development platform offer a tangible way to improve your RIM investment, both in devices and monthly network costs. If bottom-line efficiencies, such as productivity and top-line customer satisfaction gains, can be realized with more enterprise applications and data at the point of need on the RIM, and no additional hardware and network costs are required, there is considerable benefit to any financial services firm.

Ellen Daley is VP, client solutions, for ArcStream Solutions (www.arcstream.com). She can be reached at .


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