Research In Motion's BlackBerry Mobile Voice System (MVS) is designed to mobilize the PBX in order to bring full unified communications functionality to BlackBerry devices -- the solution allows users to place calls as if they were at their desk phone, and to receive calls to their office line on their BlackBerry.
ABI Research analyst David Lemelin says the key benefit of BlackBerry MVS comes down to the ability to create a link between the BlackBerry device and the IP PBX. "What it essentially does is give you the same capabilities as though you were at your desk... call control, presence, availability, any kind of routing rules or administrative rules that have been set up for the IP PBX, can now apply to the wireless device," he says.
And in some industries, Lemelin notes, that kind of functionality can be crucial. "It helps when there's regulatory or particular compliance rules where things like minutes need to be tracked... the type of call recording and call administrative capabilities that are inherent in some of the PBX applications can now be applied to the BlackBerry," he says.
While many businesses are initially drawn to MVS by the potential cost savings of routing calls over an IP network, Lemelin says the unified communications functionality is the solution's real strength.
"People have an increasingly difficult time differentiating between how they use these devices for personal use and business use -- and this is a tool that can help them bridge that, and even create rules around how they administer their business calls," he says.
Joseph Vittorelli, director of systems and infrastructure at North Carolina's Fayetteville State University, manages a deployment of about 100 BlackBerry smartphones (BlackBerry Curves and Tours) for university administration and IT department employees.
When he first learned about BlackBerry MVS, Vittorelli says, his response was, "What do I really need it for?" But when he first deployed MVS in 2008 for Fayetteville's campus IT staff, he says, he began noticing the results immediately.
"In IT, nobody's ever at their desks, and we have a large campus, so we're always walking somewhere, and now... my people aren't missing calls," Vittorelli says. "The quality of service got better all of a sudden, just because people were able to get the calls and take care of things."
And Vittorelli says the same has been true for him. "My voicemail has gone from 30 to 40 a day down to two," he says. "I'm accessible - and so is everybody that has this, to the degree that they want to be."
Soon after he first implemented the solution, Vittorelli says, he found himself stuck in an airport for three hours when his flight was canceled. "I was actually able to conduct business for about three hours, while I was waiting for another flight, from my BlackBerry," he says. "And nobody even knew that I was out of the office at that point, because when I'd make a call... the caller ID showed my office number -- and when they called my office phone, I answered my cell phone."
There are some subtler benefits to the solution as well. "I don't give out my cell phone number any more," Vittorelli says. "I give out my office number, and that's it: there's no reason that I need to give my cell phone number out. So if I choose to take a vacation, I can still carry my cell phone, but I can turn off that feature so my desk phone isn't going to ring through to my cell phone -- and then only the people that I've chosen to give my cell phone number to can reach me."
With calls set to route over IP by default, Vittorelli says, the cost savings have been significant as well. "I do a quarterly review of our cell phone usage, and we adjust our minute package every quarter -- and I'm actually seeing it going down, while data keeps going up... I'm probably talking about two or three thousand minutes total that I'm going to reduce by," he says.
If he takes the system down for just a few hours to do some maintenance, Vittorelli says he'll get an almost instant response. "People will get back to me and say, 'Hey, I had three calls that didn't come to my cell phone: what happened?' So they do rely on it -- and I think for the most part, the people that are using it now see it as just another feature of the phone system," he says.