Not to be left out of the stampede by device manufacturers to FaceBook, Twitter and a myriad of other multimedia social networking services that reinforce the consumer computing capabilities of modern smartphones, RIM, with the leading smartphone for business users has instead focused on the enterprise application of these features and services.
I attended an analyst overview of the latest release of the the Chalk software, called Chalk Pushcast* Software for the BlackBerry Enterprise Server. This BES-based application includes a PowerPoint plugin that allows multimedia presentations - videos, voice annotated files and slides - to be published to a community of BES-supported, BlackBerry users. Surveys and test wizards makes interactive mobile content easy to capture, create and publish. Units of training or content can be scheduled and tracked too.
Content is received in an inbox that is separate from email so it doesn't get lost. New content is announced via an email, an * on the Player homescreen and an audio cue. A cool capability is the degree of control and reporting available. The server keeps track of what portion of the training you've downloaded and can report statistics to learning managers. The server can also insist that high bandwidth hogs (TV, movie downloads etc) are available only when in WiFi coverage, eliminating high data, roaming charges as appropriate.
Content can't be emailed away, printed or copied so corporate information-integrity is assured.
Price today: $5/user/month.
Adding new applications to the BlackBerry system protects the future of BlackBerry in enterprises. More significantly, adding new ENTERPRISE applications, that leverage and add revenues to the BlackBerry triumvirate (phone, BES, mobile operator revenues) is a well-trodden path to business longevity and success, in an otherwise commodity market. This triumvirate provides the same level of market strength that Apple has with its iTunes, the recording industry and iPhone. It's no longer about a cool phone, but about how the device is a window to my business applications, some of which only became important with a mobile device. I can see national sales executives in rapidly changing, fast-paced markets preferring this application to keep their sales people informed, motivated and focused.
* Shudder. This reminds me (and probably millions of other Internet users) of the PointCast fiasco. PointCast was also a Push - broadCasting service. You might recall the hot startup in 1999 that managed to send news and advertising to your desktop screen when in screensaver mode. It turned out to be a fiasco for two reasons: 1. the app was a huge bandwidth hog and choked many an enterprise Internet gateway at a time when email was considered to be the only legitimate application for the Internet; and 2. nobody was at their desk watching when the screen saver came on, so it was a wasted billboard. Sigh...