Euro enterprises warming up to Blackberry

After the device has spent just five months on the U.K. market and one month in Germany, the Netherlands and Ireland, European corporate users are beginning to warm up to the BlackBerry mobile e-mail service, according to European mobile-phone operator mmO2 PLC and Research In Motion (RIM).

Operating on GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) mobile networks, the BlackBerry device, which looks like a large pager with a keyboard, offers always-on connections to corporate e-mail inboxes. To date, 250 corporate customers have signed up for the BlackBerry service offered through mmO2, said company spokesman, David Nicholas on Friday.

Enterprise customers using the BlackBerry service include Deutsche Bank AG, German media conglomerate Bertelsmann AG and the IT outsourcing company Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC), Nicholas said.

MmO2 research showed that many employees still spend more than 20 percent of their working day tied to their desk dealing with e-mail, Nicholas said. With the BlackBerry service, employees become mobile and can get out into the field to work with their customers.

Though there are PDAs (personal digital assistants) that have e-mail functionality, they often only work with a free e-mail account like Microsoft Corp.'s Hotmail, Nicholas said. BlackBerry, by contrast, can securely connect users with corporate e-mail, Nicholas said.

"Most of the corporations we're supplying BlackBerry to are in the legal and banking markets. The trials were very successful and in just five months of operation, mmO2 supplies BlackBerry to more than half of all law firms located within the City of London," Nicholas said.

According to Nicholas, the uptake of BlackBerry in Europe is echoing its spread in North America. "Over 13,200 companies in the U.S. and Canada have signed up to use BlackBerry since RIM launched it in 1999," he said.

In the U.K., mmO2 offers the Enterprise Edition of BlackBerry for between £2,000 and £3,000 (US$2,850 to $4,280), for server software and 20 licenses, Nicholas said. The BlackBerry devices themselves are purchased separately and cost around £400 ($571), he said. The GPRS service costs run to about £39 ($56) per user per month.

MmO2 has also signed agreements with eight independent mobile partners in the U.K. to establish a reseller channel for BlackBerry, mmO2 said in a statement on Friday. The mobile partners are Advance Visual Communications PLC, Elcom Inc., Expansys Ltd., Lynx Technology Ltd., MoboTel Ltd., Project Telecom PLC, PNC Telecom PLC and Wireless Logic Ltd., mmO2 said.

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