Thursday, 09 February 2006

People everywhere are commenting on the press release sent out Thursday by Research in Motion (RIM) earlier today regarding their software workaround that they have ready in the wings, should they lose an injunction hearing in a US court later this month.

Interestingly, the comments lean toward overwhelmingly positive. While I'm certainly glad RIM's doing something in the contingency planning department, and while I truly appreciate RIM's service and excellent devices, I just don't see things as all happy and cheerful and rosy. Call me a stick in the mud, or call me pragmatic. Whatever. I'n not a Blackberry or RIM hater, just someone who's caught in the middle of a problem that many other IT pro's can relate to.

RIM's has this workaround going for some time, and their announcement today comes just a couple weeks before the ruling. Previous reports indicate the judge in the case, if he issues the injunction, might provide a four week buffer before the injection would become active (that's what the complainant, NTP, has asked for, anyhow). That means in about six weeks, every Blackberry Enterprise Server (BES) and every Blackberry handheld in the United States (maybe everywhere) might have to be updated with a software patch that RIM has yet to describe or provide. Not only that, but there's no indication made as to what versions of the BES software will be upgradeable and when that software might be delivered.

Or - who knows - maybe it will only apply to new devices when they're sold, and not ones already out there. But the servers - well no way to avoid changes there if the injunction is issued.

For what it's worth, I think this whole thing is an unfortunate pain in the backside, one which could and should have been avoided by both sides of the dispute long ago. But now we're stuck here, all of us, and it's no good. Invalidated patents being used to claim intellectual property rights are at issue, and millions of people are potentially impacted.

So I don't know about you, but no matter what happens in the court, this situation represents an expensive, time consuming and complicated set of upgrade circumstances. If RIM wants to do this the right way, seems to me maybe it's time to issue the workaround software now, get it out there in the hands of the people that need to deploy it, and then leverage it if and when it's needed. From RIM's statements, it looks like that should be a viable option:

"BlackBerry Multi-Mode Edition is a software update that enables underlying changes to the message delivery system. BlackBerry Multi-Mode Edition provides two modes of operation: Standard mode and US mode. When users are outside the US, and receiving service from a non-US service provider, the BlackBerry device operates in Standard mode and there are no changes to the current message delivery system or BlackBerry functionality."

Or at least state what versions of the server software can be upgraded should the need arise, and when. In a world where enterprise change management and production system testing requirements reign, especially on a platform as fundamentally sensitive as the BES system (secure messaging is a critical piece of infrastructure), four to six weeks is so little time as to be impossible for some.

I've carried Blackberry devices now for years, and I've worked with and managed the BES software for just as long. It's not the simplest stuff, and it's something companies rely on for their day to day operations. It's not just a nice-to-have, it's an integral piece of operational infrastructure.

Regardless of who's right or wrong in the legal case, it might just be time for RIM to stop the dancing, get off the floor, and pay the valet to bring the coach. It's getting late, and someone's ride is starting to look a bit like a pumpkin.

Add/Read: Comments [3]
Mobile | Tech
Thursday, 09 February 2006 22:59:45 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Friday, 10 February 2006 00:11:22 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
I beg to differ. RIM was purportedly willing to settle 450 million with NTP and that fell through not because RIM was not willing to pay but because the other party seemed to think they are worth much more. Having a software workaround and best of all, the workaround already testing in live environments without a hitch, the announcement of workaround now has credibility and can stand it's own ground. This i credit to RIM - a sense of responsibility towards its users.
Friday, 10 February 2006 07:28:55 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
OWT: I'm not arguing whether the workaround has credibility or not. I'm just saying, if it's ready to go, release it so people can get started, just in case. the lack of useful information rom an IT standpoint is not helpful. Don't get me wrong - I like RIM, I have always appreciated their company, software and support services... But in the end they're responsible for makig sure their customers have plenty of time and warning to make things happen. So, if it's ready, let us have it, and then activate it as soon as it's needed - or never activate it if it's not needed. That's all I am saying. Responsibility toward users has nothing to do with it - RIM is obligated to test it's software before it releases it, so don't try to argue that makes them stand out. Blackberry's users are not just handheld device carriers - they are also IT pros by the hundreds of thousands who are waiting for RIM to do or say something substantial. So far all we have are counrt arguments and press releases and FAQs without any real, useful planning details.
Saturday, 25 February 2006 11:48:53 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
I have to agree with Greg. To not release the code for testing to at least an independant 3rd party who is publishing the results is irresponsible.

If I have missed the 3rd party testing, I appologize. If someone knows of such testing, please post a link.

And if the MME is so great, why not get it out into GA now. Maybe I want to queue the messages on my server and not theirs. Well, probably not, but still. If it works, get it posted. Let us decide if it works or not.

John Delaney
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