BlackBerry hooks up with Novell, Vodafone

Research in Motion (RIM) is continuing the proliferation of its BlackBerry wireless platform, announcing a new partnership with Novell Inc. Wednesday as well as an expansion of its relationship with Vodafone Group.

Both deals aim to net more enterprise customers for the company, which is already seeing strong demand for its BlackBerry wireless e-mail devices. In fact, the company reported that it gained over 200,000 new subscribers last quarter, for a total of over 1 million subscribers as of Feb. 28.

RIM said Wednesday that it hopes to grow this number by adding support for Novell's GroupWise 6.5 collaboration and communication software to its forthcoming BlackBerry Enterprise Server 4.0, due out later this year. The partnership will offer companies using GroupWise the ability to perform a managed rollout of BlackBerry devices, which allow users to access their e-mail and other corporate data wirelessly, RIM said. BlackBerry Enterprise Server already integrates with the Microsoft Exchange and IBM Lotus Domino platforms.

The partnership will give RIM access to Novell's millions of customers, who are estimated to comprise 12 percent of the worldwide systems e-mail market, according to the wireless provider.

In addition to the deal with Novell, the company moved Wednesday to expand its global reach with support from Vodafone in New Zealand. Vodafone said that it is launching the BlackBerry 7230 Wireless Handheld for enterprise customers in mid-July, and support for individuals featuring the BlackBerry Web Client later in the year. The BlackBerry Web Client has an Internet-based e-mail interface that allows users to access multiple corporate or personal e-mail accounts from a BlackBerry device.

Vodafone already announced that it was partnering with RIM in Ireland last April to offer customers wireless e-mail capabilities using RIM's BlackBerry 7230 Wireless Handheld as well as offering support for the BlackBerry Web Client.

A spokeswoman for Vodafone in Ireland said that customer response to the offering had been strong and that their sales team was meeting its targets.

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