If you’re a frenzied, gray-haired corporate IT-type like me, you’ve probably already been approached by a client inquiring about the fate of the BlackBerry. For those who haven’t heard, Research in Motion (RIM), BlackBerry’s manufacturer, has been fighting patent holding company NTP in NTP’s claims that RIM infringed a group of patents on the use of wireless communications in e-mail devices. NTP filed a lawsuit in 2002, which was settled in March 2005 in a tentative settlement of $450 million, but the deal fell through a few months later.

On Monday, January 23rd, The U.S. Supreme Court rejected a petition filed by RIM to review a federal appeals court ruling that could lead to a shutdown of most U.S. BlackBerry sales and service. Herein lies the dilemma for us corporate IT geeks. With the ever-growing demand for people wanting to be connected 24×7, the BlackBerries are one of the best wireless communications options out there. If a shutdown in device sales or service does occur, where does that leave the massive installed client base?

In my humble opinion, I believe this will all be solved by a large settlement agreement before any service disruption occurs. NTP has stated that it is interested in settling this dispute, however, there are still many people who may not want to get caught up in the middle of this mess. The installed client base probably doesn’t have an immediate concern. If a company has an installed BES server within its corporate network, it would be almost impossible for anyone to ask it to shut off its services and expect any level of compliance with this request. After all, it’s already paid for the software and the service, right? It would be close to the same for any other hosted BES services currently running out there. Individual users could continue to use the solution that shipped with their BlackBerries.

New customers are a different story. There are options. Sprint and Cingular are both offering a solution from a company called Good Technologies that provides many similar capabilities as the BlackBerry. It is a secure solution that provides push technology to an assortment of hardware platforms using Microsoft’s Exchange messaging platform. A Domino/Lotus Notes version is on the horizon. The Hosted version allows access to enterprises that outsource their Exchange mailbox hosting without having to run their own Exchange e-mail server. For individuals outside of the corporate realm, check with your local service providers. POP3 is an option with most ISPs.

I hope for technology’s sake, and our sakes, these issues get resolved quickly. With all of the other daily issues that we contend with, this should be the least of our concerns. After all, wasn’t technology supposed to make our lives easier?

[Tom Forkenbrock]

[tags]blackberry,rim,research in motion,ntp,good technologies,tom forkenbrock[/tags]