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BlackBerry clients find alternative in GoodLink

Is it a growing trend that several companies have recently announced they are ditching their BlackBerrys and picking up different devices using GoodLink for mobile email?

First they were BlackBerry "pancakes," now they're "bricks."

In the past month, a number of businesses have gone public about squishing BlackBerry and picking devices enabled with GoodLink, the mobile email platform from Good Technology. According to Good, a law firm, a media and entertainment industry technology and services provider, and a healthcare procurement services company have all announced making the leap, stomping on their BlackBerrys and using GoodLink on either Palm Treo smartphones or Pocket PCs.

Dan Rudolph, director of product marketing for Good Technology, said there are several reasons a company would switch. One driver is the new types of devices and handhelds that are being released.

 The BlackBerrys were more like bricks. They don't really conform to your hand.
 Michael Howell
 Vice President of Technology and Architecture Broadlane
BlackBerrys, though highly functional, haven't really adapted to the growing trend of "cool" devices. They're still, in a sense, basic, while GoodLink can be used on a host of hot new devices such as the latest Palm Treos and the recently announced Motorola Q, which is billed as the "BlackBerry killer" or the "RazrBerry," a play on Motorola's widely popular consumer-focused Razr cell phones.

"There are a lot of new handhelds coming out," Rudolph said. "There is still a coolness factor. BlackBerry is stuck with the pager [form factor]."

Avi Greengart of Current Analysis said he's seen evidence of the switch from BlackBerry, made by Research In Motion Ltd. (RIM), to Good, but at this point it does not appear to be a clear-cut trend.

"There are three main reasons to consider Good over RIM -- strategic, technical and device-driven," Greengart said. "[But] it's important to note up front that I have not been seeing a big movement away from RIM to its competitors."

Greengart added, however, that companies started showing increased interest in BlackBerry competitors during RIM's ongoing patent litigation issues. RIM was sued by NTP Inc., which claimed that RIM stole several NTP patents to make its mobile email platform. The lawsuit ended in March, when RIM settled the case for $612.5 million.

"IT managers suddenly realized that they were entirely dependent on a single vendor for critical mobility needs," Greengart said.

He also noted that device choice is a key reason some companies may leave BlackBerry for Good.

"Many Good installations go hand in hand with Palm Treos on the device side. While Palm and RIM announced BlackBerry Connect for the Treo, carriers have not enabled it out of the box. Despite heavy competition from RIM, HTC, Nokia and now Motorola's Q, many consumers prefer the rich PIM functionality, extensive library of third-party applications, and balanced voice, email, [and] media capabilities of the Treo," Greengart said. "Most smartphones are still considered consumer-purchased devices, so in many organizations, installing Good is a good way to support an already existing community of Treo users."

Kathryn Weldon, also with Current Analysis, agreed with Greengart that patent litigation soured some BlackBerry users, but she too stopped short of calling it a mass BlackBerry exodus.

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"I am not convinced people are going to Good and away from RIM in droves, but Good is considered the only enterprise-level alternative -- Seven and Visto are generally viewed as not sufficiently scalable," Weldon said. "As Good isn't really any less expensive than RIM's BES [BlackBerry Enterprise Server], it seems likely that companies who want more device support, especially for the Treo, and who were indeed worried about the lawsuit issues, would see Good as the only place to go."

RIM would not comment for this story except to say in an email that "RIM doesn't typically engage in competitive banter with smaller firms like [Good Technology] or comment on their publicity tactics."

But the users who have made the jump from BlackBerry to Good are extremely vocal.

"We actually left BlackBerry a while ago," said Michael Howell, vice president of technology and architecture at Broadlane, a Dallas healthcare procurement services company. Howell said Broadlane gave up on the BlackBerry G-100 for the Palm Treo 600 more than a year ago. More recently, he added, the company upgraded to the Treo 650 for its nearly 300 users.

Although it wasn't necessarily a device "coolness factor" that led Broadlane to leave BlackBerry behind, the somewhat archaic nature of the devices was central to the decision, Howell said.

When Broadlane used BlackBerry, the devices still didn't have phones and the user had to initiate sending and receiving emails. The new Treos, on the other hand, feature a cell phone and can be updated in real time, Howell said, adding that GoodLink syncs better with Outlook.

"Everybody loved the Treo because it was nice, compact, slim and real-time," he said. "The BlackBerrys were more like bricks. They don't really conform to your hand."

On the management side, Howell said, Good takes up a smaller footprint than BlackBerry, which has its own server installed in the DMZ.

Also, the GoodLink switch uncovered some surprises, such as short message service (SMS). More commonly known as text messaging, SMS has become a staple at Broadlane for keeping in touch. Howell said he was shocked at how fast Treo users picked up a knack for shooting out short messages.

"A lot of people use SMS on their phones and don't know how to use IM," Howell said.

He continued that it's easier for his staff to deploy mobile applications on GoodLink.

Broadlane's switch somewhat mirrors another recent jump, this one by Allen Boone Humphries Robinson, a Houston-based law firm. Debbie Cole, the firm's IT liaison, said in our story Law firm picks Palm Treos over BlackBerry 'pancakes' that BlackBerrys were simply too big for their team of users, prompting many to refer to them as "pancakes." The firm initiated a rigorous testing phase during which 40 users pored over every single feature of numerous devices, including Palm Treos and BlackBerrys. Treos with GoodLink won out, Cole said, not only because of the pancake factor but also because of usability.

Another company that recently left its BlackBerrys in the dust is Thomson, which is now using GoodLink on Palm Treo 650s and Pocket PCs. Thomson is a provider of technology and services to the media and entertainment industry and has roughly 50,000 global employees who travel regularly.

According to a statement from Thomson, the switch from BlackBerry to GoodLink was made partly to enhance control and security and let employees choose which mobile devices they prefer. Thomson already has nearly 1,000 employees on GoodLink, and that is expected to triple soon.

Thomson's worldwide voice telecom manager Claude Fossati said, "The security features that Good offers, especially the ability to remotely wipe data from any lost or stolen device, gives me real peace of mind and ensures that sensitive information does not fall into the wrong hands."

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