Research In Motion has launched the PBX extension capability for its BlackBerry devices it has been promising since its acquisition of Ascendent Systems in March 2006.
PBX extension is a form of fixed-mobile convergence where clients loaded onto mobile phones enable them to act and be treated as extensions on the corporate PBX, so that calls out are routed through the office switch and incoming ones to the user's extension number can be taken on the mobile.
This also enables single-number 'Reach Me Anywhere' availability for the user, as well as the ability to extend PBX functionality including call-forwarding, parking, and short-number extension dialing to the cellphone, from the standard menu on the handset. Routing all mobile calls through the PBX means they can be logged and recorded.
The components of what Waterloo, Ontario-based RIM is calling the BlackBerry Mobile Voice System are the MVS client, which is an addition to the BlackBerry Device Software from versions 4.2.1 onwards, the MVS Connectors, which are a feature of the BlackBerry Enterprise Server from version 4.1, and the Voice Mobility Suite from Ascendent, version 4.5 on up.
The Ascendent technology is server software that does the work of interfacing with the PBX, and the reason the Canadian push e-mail heavyweight bought the San Jose, California-based ISV last year was that it can work with PBXs from all the leading vendors, which is key for RIM. Ascendent works with TDM, IP, and hybrid PBXs, giving it the widest addressable market possible.
The BES is best known as the provider of RIM's push e-mail service, but RIM said its role in this context is to supply the same security, IT policy enforcement, and systems management capabilities it does for BlackBerry devices on the e-mail side, "extending the administrative tools and services of the BlackBerry platform to the Ascendent Voice Mobility Suite."
Among the security features RIM is "the ability to automatically authenticate mobile users to the PBX to help ensure that only authorised users and devices are accessing the corporate telephony system."
No pricing information for the MVS offering has been disclosed, though significant chunks of the functionality come with upgrades to the various server software packages, so anyone on a maintenance contract should be getting them automatically. RIM's plan is for the suite to go on general availability by the end of the month.
It is vital for RIM to get enterprise FMC right if it is to extend its remit in corporate accounts beyond push e-mail and enhance its stickiness. To be fair, the market's appetite for BlackBerries has shown no sign of letting up even before the advent of MVS, as its recent financials have demonstrated: it is now a company with $3bn revenue and over 8 million subscribers.
Still, with Microsoft from the software side and Nokia from handset world leading the assault on its push e-mail stronghold, it cannot rest on its laurels, and needs to demonstrate equal prowess in enterprise voice, so a PBX extension offering that leverages the BES's renowned security and sysadmin capabilities is a savvy move. FMC becomes just another reason to buy a BES or upgrade an existing one.
There are a lot more companies out there with a BES than there are with the Ascendent platform in place, so there will be an additional cost involved. Watch for how RIM and its subsidiary price the Voice Mobility Suite as part of the overall MVS offering. It will also be interesting to see whether RIM goes further, bundling in other Ascendent functionality such as conferencing and notification for a broader collaboration play.