• March 16, 2005
  • By Marshall Lager, founder and managing principal, Third Idea Consulting; contributor, CRM magazine

BlackBerry Devices Get Instant Messaging

This week Research In Motion (RIM) unveiled new, separate partnerships with Yahoo! and America Online to preinstall AOL's Instant Messenger and ICQ services and Yahoo! Messenger on its BlackBerry devices. Current owners of BlackBerry products can download the software for free.

"It certainly makes sense from a functionality point of view," says Martin Schneider, enterprise software analyst at The 451 Group. "RIM already provides voice and email capabilities, and instant chat is just one more weapon for the field sales force." Instances where instant messaging could benefit sales agents include client meetings during which a quick answer is needed on product availability. "Just pop off a quick IM to somebody at the warehouse," Schneider suggests, "and you can tell your customer if the product will be shipped in three days or three weeks." He also notes that it wisely provides the same functions currently available on consumer-oriented devices to enterprise users, who might prefer the more professional appearance of the BlackBerry.

In addition, RIM's BlackBerry Connect software for Windows mobile devices will be available worldwide on current and future Pocket PC and Smartphone wireless products from Taiwan-based High Tech Computer. Available applications include BlackBerry Enterprise Server, which integrates with Microsoft Exchange, and IBM Lotus Domino, as well as existing enterprise systems, and BlackBerry Internet Service for individuals and businesses with up to 10 seats.

Those close to the industry applaud the mobile moves. iEnterprises is the developer of CRM on the Go, a standalone application that enables companies to implement existing CRM systems on wireless devices. "Many CRM technology packages have lots of bells and whistles, which might not all be useful to the mobile sales force," says John Carini, CEO and chief architect of wireless for iEnterprises. "But the mobile platform, with its small screen, actually helps to simplify and streamline your choices." Schneider's take is similar: "Just as a call center agent doesn't want to tab between four or five applications to manage a customer's needs, a person in the field shouldn't have to juggle multiple devices to get what he needs to know."

The results and advantages of these developments, as well as other goings-on in the mobile communications industry, will be highlighted at the second annual Wireless on Wall Street convention, scheduled for March 21 through 22 at the Puck Building in New York City. The event includes a series of panel discussions and focus groups on a range of topics from device security and in-building wireless deployment to the future of wireless in the financial services sector.

"Wireless is really becoming mainstream--it isn't optional anymore," Carini says. "It's hard to argue with always being in the know, whether on the client site or in a hotel room." He adds that end users (the field force) are the ones driving the need to extend enterprise applications to wireless platforms. "The people on the streets are the first to know when their needs aren't being met. When they demand access and functionality, vendors would be wise to listen."

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