Why doesn’t the BlackBerry 8820 have SIP support?

BlackBerry 8820Forget all this noise on the Internet about security concerns with the BlackBerry 8820’s Wi-Fi capabilities — RIM would never have released the device unless it was airtight (also, where were these concerns when they released the forlorn BlackBerry 7270?). However, a recent article by ITweek raises a far more interesting issue: the BlackBerry 8820’s lack of Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) support, commonly used to link with a corporate IP PBX or messaging server. RIM instead chose to support the Unlicensed Mobile Access (UMA) IP telephony protocol, which is designed to link a handset back to a mobile carrier’s network.

We must first look to how the BlackBerry 8820’s lack of SIP support jives with RIM’s hyping of voice services at WES 2007. If you remember, RIM co-CEO’s Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis spent a lot of time talking about how they were going to eliminate the need for a desktop phone and do for voice what the BlackBerry did for email. If we are to take ITweek at face value that a lack of SIP support will really deter enterprises from adopting the BlackBerry 8820 as a desktop phone replacement, then what’s going on in Waterloo?

There are three partial answers to this question. The first lies in UMA, which is favored by carriers. Paying close attention to what Balsillie and others have said in the past, it’s obvious that RIM would choose to support the protocol most amenable to carriers, because RIM needs to keep carriers happy to succeed; the carriers want to control enterprise BlackBerry Wi-Fi use, and therefore UMA is supported. The only surprising bit here is why the BlackBerry 8820 isn’t coming to T-Mobile first rather than AT&T, considering their penchant for UMA.

The second lies in the timing of the BlackBerry 8820 launch in relation to RIM’s WES announcements. We’ve been told by those in the know that BlackBerry hardware is complete about 3-6 months before a device is released (the rest of the time is used for testing and bug fixes). Following that timeline, the BlackBerry 8820 was essentially done around or sometime before WES, meaning that Mikey and Jim Dog might not have been referring to the BlackBerry 8820 when they were talking about future voice solutions, but rather another device to follow later this year.

This makes sense when taking in conjunction with statements made by David Heit, Director of Software Product Management for Enterprise Solutions for RIM, in an article by eWeek.

Heit noted that while work has begun on making sure that all PBX equipment would be supported by the MVS solution, there is still a long way to go. “In the PBX world there are at least 10 major vendors,” Heit said. “The vast bulk of the market are using TDM [time-division multiplexing] PBXes. They’re talking about moving to IP. Some are moving directly to IP and SIP [Session Initiation Protocol]-based PBXes, but most are somewhere in between. We’re trying to come up with a connection strategy to handle all of them.”

This stuff takes time. RIM will surely roll out SIP-based PBX support eventually. Until that time, it makes sense that they would test the waters with the most carrier-friendly protocol around.

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