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RIM CEO aims for function over flash

The makers of a favorite CIO accessory -- the BlackBerry -- say it will focus on essentials rather than extras.

ORLANDO -- Mike Lazardis, CEO of Research in Motion Ltd., maker of the ubiquitous executive accessory, the RIM BlackBerry, has a vision for his wireless email devices that includes new and neccessary functions -- but not every new feature under the sun.

We're so addicted to email, it's a mission-critical application.

Thomas H. Jolls III

internal systems developer, MasterCard International Inc.

During a discussion with Gartner, Inc. vice presidents Phil Redman and Ken Dulaney at the Wireless & Mobile Summit 2005, the CEO of the Waterloo, Ontario wireless company declared that users were ready to step beyond wireless email to more sophisticated uses of their cherished BlackBerry handhelds.

"We're not trying to replace the laptop or desktop," Lazardis said. "Our goal is to extend the paradigm. To make sure what we build augments for what's already in place."

That is a somewhat different approach than many other hand held device manufacturers have taken. Smart phones are appearing with cameras, keyboards, the ability to display video and even gaming features. The devices are taking an all-in-one approach that often appeals more to consumers than to corporate IT departments that need to manage security risks with such devices.

"I'm glad they are not adding too many things—a camera would be a real security concern," said attendee Hank Parker a desktop system manager with Bethesda, Md. defense contractor, Lockheed Martin Corp.

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While Rim struggles with the same pressures as other device manufacturers -- the continual push for larger screens and smaller, lighter devices -- RIM will not add cameras and other more consumer oriented features, Lazardis said. It will stick to the core business features that helped the company gain its 2.5 million subscribers.

"The killer app is the accessibility of what is already there," Lazardis said.

That message resonated with attendee and BlackBerry user, Thomas H. Jolls III, an internal systems developer with MasterCard International Inc. , a company that has 500 executives using the devices. MasterCard is allowing employees to access email and Web-based applications through their hand held devices.

"We're so addicted to email, it's a mission-critical application," said Jolls. "If the BlackBerry connection went down, my phone would ring off the hook."

MasterCard is planning to deploy BlackBerry devices to a few thousand users in the near future. While using the devices for mobile email and calendar fulfills most of its basic needs, Jolls said that the idea of extending it to other applications is appealing.

RIM is working on ways to make the device more versatile. One idea is to allow users to carry a second battery when they need it, rather than making the device larger and heavier with a bigger battery. Another is to allow users to maintain their identity on a removable chip that they can swap between RIM devices one tailored for specific computing needs.

Lazardis also said that RIM is considering a way that the BlackBerry could also be used as a wireless modem. "There are always a few documents that you need to edit and the last thing you want to do is edit documents on here," he said, pointing to his own hand held device. By using the BlackBerry as a modem for a laptop, users could attend to more complicated computing needs on a more appropriate device.

Mobile email access has helped thousands of businesses understand the value of mobile access to corporate information, he said. "Now were moving onto the next phase."

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