For BlackBerry-obsessed business owners, the cost of trading e-mails on the go is about to get a lot cheaper.
In hopes of expanding its customer base beyond the corporate set, Research in Motion recently released the BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express, designed specifically for small and midsize businesses.
The Server Express sells for $1,099 and includes five licenses -- close to $2,000 less than the nearest Enterprise Solution package.
The Server Express software is available by download for new customers, as well as current BlackBerry customers who signed on within the past 30 days. Like BlackBerry's larger Enterprise Solution, the new server can be integrated with Microsoft Exchange, Lotus, Domino, or Novell GroupWise.
"Small-business people were looking for a solution that had the security and liability of BlackBerry at an affordable price," said David Wilmering, RIM's director of product marketing.
While the software for the Server Express is identical to the full Enterprise Server, primarily used by larger companies, the Server Express is cheaper, the software is downloadable from the Internet, and offers a 60-day free technical support plan.
Unlike the Enterprise Server, the Server Express only allows 15 total licenses. If a company's needs eventually grow beyond that, access keys can be purchased to upgrade to the full Enterprise Server.
"The 60-day support plan is aimed at getting the small-business person up and going," said Wilmering, adding that small businesses and branch offices of larger corporations often don't have the IT support that large companies depend on.
"The Enterprise Server started out as a model for large businesses," said Gene Signorini, vice president for wireless/mobile enterprise solutions at the Boston-based Yankee Group. But Yankee research "has found that 50% of all mobile workers are on the small to midsize business side."
The release comes as RIM seeks to focus on growth again, after settling a lengthy patent lawsuit for $612.5 million in March. The company now faces a similar suit, however.
"RIM has taken the opportunity to get this product out into the market," said Michael Gartenberg, research director for JupiterResearch.