The Canadian company has announced that Service Pack 4 (SP4) for version 5.0 its BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) will be compatible with the latest release of Microsoft’s email server software.
According to RIM, it will implement its Exchange 2013 strategy in two phases. The first phase will support Exchange 2013-only shops. Those will probably be as rare as hens’ teeth in the short-term scheme of things.
The second phase will support mixed Exchange environments, environments that will be running 2013 with legacy versions of Exchange such as 2007 and 2010.
That strategy makes sense, since Microsoft has yet to release all the pieces needed to allow those legacy versions of Exchange to play nice with the 2013 version. For Exchange 2007, those pieces will be in a future rollup to Service Pack 3; for Exchange 2010, they’ll be in the next service pack for the software, Service Pack 3.
Users in Exchange 2013 environments using BlackBerry devices running version 7.0 of its operating system will continue to be supported in SP4 of BES 5.0, RIM explained. However, an update to Exchange 2013′s MAPI/CDO support will be needed before the new email server software will be compatible with the BlackBerry devices. That download has yet to be released by Microsoft.
Currently, Exchange 2013 limits its MAPI connections to RPC over HTTPS. That’s fine if everyone in your office is using Outlook as a client — it has supported RPC over HTTPS since 2003 — but not so fine for members of your organization with clients that support RPC over TCP.
As for some other RIM products — namely BlackBerry Mobile Fusion and BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10 — Exchange 2013 support won’t be a problem because they, ironically, use Microsoft’s ActiveSync as their communication protocol.
That’s ironic because for many years ActiveSync was considered to be inferior to RIM’s technology. ActiveSync’s roots can be traced back to a program called AirSync, which Microsoft incorporated into its Mobile Information Server (MIS) in 2002.
It made its debut at ActiveSync in Exchange 2003, but it didn’t become a true competitor to RIM’s platform until 2005, when Service Pack 2 for the server software was released. Not only did that version of ActiveSync clear away annoyances found in past versions of the software, but it offered enterprises a value proposition that placed RIM at a disadvantage.
Since ActiveSync was part of Exchange, Exchange users could us it for free. That contrasted starkly with RIM’s business model which required additional licenses to be purchased before devices could be connected to a RIM server.
While RIM turned its nose up at ActiveSync at one time, now it seems resigned to go with the market flow on the subject.
“There are a number of reasons that RIM made the choice to go with ActiveSync as the sync engine for our next generation of messaging on BlackBerry tablets and smartphones,” observed Jeff Holleran, RIM’s senior director for enterprise product management in a company blog.
“Over the past decade, ActiveSync has matured as a protocol,” he explained. “We are able to use ActiveSync to provide a capable sync engine that is supported for both the traditional Enterprise email platforms that RIM currently supports, and for additional email platforms that support the Microsoft ActiveSync protocol.”
That will allow RIM to reach more customers, he added.
And when you’ve been losing customers as RIM has been doing for months, that’s probably a good thing.