The wireless hardware and software vendor said that, as a first step, it will begin offering the new software application for devices running Windows Mobile 6. In the future, the company plans to offer the same capability to users of other mobile operating systems, such as Symbian and Palm, according to David Heit, director of product management at RIM.
The new BlackBerry application suite will complement existing Windows Mobile 6 functionality and will appear as an icon on the screen, in the same manner as other third-party applications. Clicking the icon will prompt a suite of BlackBerry applications, including push e-mail functionality, calendar, address book and others, to load. The device will also feature the user interface of a BlackBerry smartphone.
Devices running the BlackBerry application suite will connect to BlackBerry services via BlackBerry Enterprise Server and BlackBerry Internet Service.
This will be the first time the company has opened its proprietary software to third-party developers, although it has licensed its protocols to rival device manufacturers through BlackBerry Connect, introduced in 2003.
"Rather than providing the protocols, we're providing the entire application stack," Heit told internetnews.com. This decision gives the company access to a greater pool of potential customers, he added.
"More and more segments of the marketplace are interested in BlackBerry content delivery, management administration and security. This extends that reach more completely," he said.
According to Yankee Group analyst Zeus Kerravala, the timing of RIM's announcement is good. When a particular technology is first making its bones, vertical integration helps ensure devices function properly. But as a market matures and technological issues are resolved, openness and choice become greater virtues.
So while it made sense for RIM to remain vertically integrated while smartphone technology was young, the market has matured to a point where it now makes more sense for the company to open up to a greater range of devices, said Kerravala.
"Historically, the vendors that have provided choice are the ones who have gone on to win, regardless of the market they were in," he told internetnews.com.
But given the number of issues yet to be resolved with the new software -- availability, pricing and delivery mechanisms are yet to be announced -- there may well be another reason for the timing of the announcement.
The company suffered a well-publicized outage last week, stemming from "the introduction of a new, non-critical system routine that was designed to provide better optimization of the system's cache," it said in a statement. Creating buzz around a new application would be one way to distract attention from that news.
Ironically, the system's weakness is also one of its principal advantages, noted IDC analyst Chris Hazelton.