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How Should Startups and Small Businesses Prepare For a BlackBerry Shutdown?
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Although a shutdown of BlackBerry is very unlikely, businesses and individuals can take several actions to protect themselves.

The easiest step, and one which Rescuecom frequently helps businesses do, is to switch to the Windows 2003 mobile platform using outlook and exchange. Outlook and windows mobile 2003 actually provide a cleaner interface and, in fact, even BlackBerry interfaces with Outlook today.

We thoroughly researched the hand-held industry when developing our patent-winning SYSTEM ONE technology, which allows our franchise owners and technicians to work from a handheld device rather than from behind a desk. We found that Windows mobile 2003 ends up stronger than BlackBerry across the board and is a better bet for most businesses and users.

Other products are available that match the ease of use of the BlackBerry and integration into MS Office programs such as Excel and Word are seamless with Windows Mobile 2003. Also, BlackBerry requires extra third party software. So Windows Mobile 2003, for an enterprise, is more economical and more reliable.

Although BlackBerry is very popular today, even if no shutdown occurs, it may face a bleak future. It's is the modern day version of the Palm Pilot (circa 1995). Consumers should consider switching to devices compatible with the Windows Mobile 2003 platform.
--David A. Milman, founder and CEO, RESCUECOM

Nothing. Small businesses should not panic regarding the recent BlackBerry legal decision. It is very unlikely that the service will be shutdown. A decision to do so without a plan to accommodate the over 4 million users would be catastrophic to our growing industry segment.
--Tom French, President and CEO, Data

As of today, it isn’t clear what will happen in the battle over patents between Research In Motion (Blackberry) and NTP. What is clear is that Blackberry isn’t doing much to give existing customers viable options for dealing with the impact on their business that a Blackberry shutdown will cause. The company is communicating a “trust us, we’ll get this all worked out, or we’ll have options for you in place” response with little to no details.

Here’s my recommendation:

Be Cautious: Now is not the time to invest in any new Blackberry devices or services. Put any possible services on hold pending resolution of this issue. If you must provide Blackberry type service, look at the alternative devices and services that are available from your cell carriers, including things like the Sony TREO and HP’s Smart Phones as just two examples.

Analyze: Examine how your business is currently using Blackberrys on a department by department basis. Decide how critical the impact to your business would be with even a short period disruption (10-30 days). For vital communication activities like maintaining relationships with employees, suppliers and partners, you may opt for other carriers or communication methods in the short term. These may be less efficient, but may save you from undertaking a fairly large migration to new devices/services in a short period of time.

Other communication options include cell phone instant messaging, plain old fashion voice communications and requiring that your frequent travelers re-examine using laptops while on the road. For example, e-mail access accounts can be purchased on a month-to-month basis from various cell phone carriers.

Plan: Prepare a plan and stick to it. If service is shut down, and you opt to “stick it out” for a short duration, make sure you know your pain threshold. If after 15 days, for example, Blackberry hasn’t given you a firm commitment for getting you back in service, be prepared to cut the cord and go with a different solution. Look for a solution provider with experience in Blackberry and other service options for help in managing your transition. For help in finding a partner, contact ITSPA at findapartner@itspa.net.

--John Strauss, vice president of services for SARCOM and ITSPA Advisory Board Member

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