Gartner: RIM's workaround is a 'negotiating tactic'

A workaround by Research In Motion, designed to avoid infringing patents held by intellectual property company NTP, is simply a negotiating tactic to help the BlackBerry maker settle out of court, according to analyst group Gartner.In December, Gartner advised its clients to halt all mission critical deployments of RIM's BlackBerry e-mail devices because of a legal battle that could see a judge effectively shut down the company's United States (US) operations.

A workaround by Research In Motion, designed to avoid infringing patents held by intellectual property company NTP, is simply a negotiating tactic to help the BlackBerry maker settle out of court, according to analyst group Gartner.

In December, Gartner advised its clients to halt all mission critical deployments of RIM's BlackBerry e-mail devices because of a legal battle that could see a judge effectively shut down the company's United States (US) operations.

As a backup, RIM last week announced it could deploy a workaround that will allow the company to continue providing its service in the US. However, after analysing the workaround, Gartner analysts Ken Dulaney, Todd Kort and Monica Basso said that for now, they will not be changing their stance.

"The complexities involved in the NTP-RIM patent infringement issue lead us to believe that RIM's announcement of a work-around will serve primarily as a negotiating tactic. Settlement of the case remains the most likely outcome. We have not modified our initial recommendation," the advisory said.

The legal battle taking place in the US will not affect BlackBerry deployments in the rest of the world, but should RIM be forced to deploy the workaround then there may be issues for international BlackBerry users when travelling in the US.

"Non-US users would see no change in service unless they roamed into the US but RIM's work-around documentation does not address traffic emanating from the US for a foreign device -- a scenario that Gartner believes may be subject to NTP patent claims," the advisory states.

In addition, Gartner warned that deploying the work-around within an enterprise would be a major project and the updated device could suffer from performance issues.

"RIM must... provide firmware upgrades on each BlackBerry. Enterprises must then qualify the workaround and upgrade their devices. As an example, we estimate that if you have 500 units in service, at least a month-long effort will be required to complete this process, assuming all devices are updated at a central facility by experienced IT staff.

"RIM also has made no comment on performance impact. However, some impact is likely due to the heavier protocol requirements that are probably needed to make this work," the analysts said.

However the dispute concludes, RIM's future is unlikely to be settled because of there are more companies lining up to challenge the company's technology.

Daniel Méndez, co-founder and senior vice president of intellectual property at Visto, told ZDNet Australia  last week that RIM may also be infringing some of its patents.

Mendez believes that Visto's patents, which the company has held for almost nine years, are 'fundamental' to the mobile e-mail market. The company is already suing Microsoft and Good Technology for possible patent infringements and RIM could be next.

Business as usual in Australia
RIM is adamant that legal wranglings in the US will not affect Australian users and to back up its stance the company on Tuesday launched a new BlackBerry device to the domestic market.

The BlackBerry 7130e, which operates on one of Telstra's networks, has a high-resolution LCD screen, support for Bluetooth headsets or hands-free car kits, 64MB of flash memory and enhanced battery life.

In a statement, Norm Lo, Vice President, Asia Pacific at RIM, said: "The BlackBerry 7130e further expands the BlackBerry offering here in Australia, allowing users to access the fast data transfer speeds of Telstra's 1xEV-DO network".

The next court hearing between NTP and RIM is scheduled for 24 February.

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