RIM to offer free BlackBerry Enterprise Server

BES Express is intended for SMEs that want to use the BlackBerry infrastructure, but don't need its more advanced features

Research In Motion will soon begin giving away a free version of BlackBerry Enterprise Server.

BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) Express will be made available as a free download in March, RIM chief executive Mike Lazaridis announced on Tuesday in a keynote speech at Mobile World Congress.

BES Express, which comes with free client licences, is server software that makes it possible to synchronise BlackBerry smartphones with Microsoft Exchange or Windows Small Business Server systems.

In addition, Lazaridis unveiled upcoming features that will be added to the paid-for BES, including video conferencing, "enterprise-class social networking", fixed/mobile convergence and PBX integration.

In a statement released on Tuesday, RIM said it was launching a free version of BES to serve small and medium-sized businesses that want the "enterprise-grade security and manageability" of BES, but do not need its more advanced features. The company also said it was trying to help IT departments meet employee demand for connecting personal BlackBerry devices to corporate email systems.

BES Express will work with Microsoft Exchange 2010, 2007 and 2003, and Microsoft Windows Small Business Server 2008 and 2003. It uses the same security architecture as the paid-for BES, and will support email, calendar, contacts, notes and tasks, and other business applications and enterprise systems behind companies' firewalls.

In his speech, Lazaridis also gave a quick preview of the upcoming WebKit-based BlackBerry browser. He demonstrated how the browser scored 100/100 in the Acid3 web standards test, and said the efficiency of the browser would help operators who are "facing an impending capacity crunch".

He also announced a new application strategy for the BlackBerry, called 'super apps'. These applications are integrated with other applications — examples demonstrated by Lazaridis included the ability to view and send tweets from the smartphone's inbox, and synchronise an eBay application with the phone's calendar to keep up with impending auction closures.

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