RIM has moved to quash concerns that the BlackBerry is only suited to enterprise users by broadening its Alliance program to support a far greater number of personal productivity and multimedia application developers. Jeff McDowell, Director of RIM's Alliance program, says that this will include the automatic delivery of audio and video content to the device, a process he has dubbed "push-media".
Sona MediaPlayer: One of the first push-media solutions
The push-media concept takes the BlackBerry's core "push-e-mail" technology a step further, by supporting the automatic delivery of rich multimedia content to the handheld, rather than limiting the device to e-mail only.
McDowell told CNET.com.au that some examples of push-media features soon to be available to BlackBerry users include podcasts, video and specialised news reports such as financial information from Bloomberg. He also noted that Flickr and other established "audio/video companies" have recently approached RIM with plans to port their services to the BlackBerry.
At present, two push-media applications have already been announced - Sona MediaPlayer and Quick Player. The Sona offering is already available for purchase and allows for the streaming and local playback of video files, while Quick Player will go live on 15 June and will be capable of streaming international news, information and entertainment content in podcast format.
McDowell says that RIM's push-media solution will be far superior to the multimedia functionality offered by competing Microsoft and Palm solutions, because unlike on the latter where multimedia content downloads must be requested by the user, the BlackBerry has the ability to automatically push this content to the device without necessarily calling on user input.
In addition to push-media, McDowell noted that there will also be a number of "personal productivity" applications available, such as "currency conversion, calorie counters, golf (scoring utilities) and workout schedules".
The move is logical when one considers that, according to the recent Fitch Global Wireless Review report, growth in global active wireless subscribers has slowed from 35 percent in 2004 to 17 percent in 2005. RIM hopes that the introduction of more advanced multimedia and personal productivity applications will help to stem this decline in growth, by increasing the BlackBerry's appeal amongst small office/home office (SOHO) users and individuals.
"Now you've got a device that crosses both business productivity and personal productivity," said McDowell. "We're not looking to polarise to one or the other."
This is a marked change in thinking for RIM, with McDowell admitting that "our main focus has been on the enterprise, up until recently."
Accompanying the increased selection of applications will be a new range of "prosumer" BlackBerry handsets and a targeted advertising campaign, which McDowell says will emphasise that "BlackBerry is more than just enterprise. It's about increasing productivity across your whole life."
Asher Moses travelled to Florida as a guest of RIM.