RIM brings mobility to paper trail

Research in Motion (RIM) has formed a series of partnerships with companies like Xerox to add document management capabilities to its flagship BlackBerry product.

Mobile document management is becoming a major asset for Waterloo,

Ont.-based RIM, said Mark Guibert, the company’s vice-president of brand management. “”The reason this sort of functionality is important in our case is the adoption and usage of BlackBerry by our customers reaches a level where the ability to manage documents becomes a higher priority on a mobile setting,”” he said.

Xerox’s mDoc solution allows a user to view an e-mail attachment, edit it, then print or fax it. The product is browser-based, so it can concievably work with any portable device — including Palms, Pocket PC-based PDAs and Web-enabled cell phones — but Xerox has chosen to build an alliance with RIM for its focus on enterprise markets, said Billy Cates, general manager for Xerox Mobile Solutions.

The alliance includes a co-marketing agreement and mDoc/BlackBerry will be jointly sold by Xerox and RIM sales teams. Through an internal arrangement, Xerox provided the mDoc-enabled BlackBerry to 200 of its own employees. Cates, however, didn’t rule out any further announcements with other mobile hardware providers.

Guibert acknowledged that BlackBerry devices aren’t necessary geared towards viewing documents, but “”the idea here isn’t that you replicate the complete functionality of a laptop or a PC. It’s more focused on how you get at the time-sensitive information . . . It’s only two or three per cent of my messages where I would want or need to do this, but boy, is it important.””

Wendy MacMillan, a member of document management association Xplor, underscored the importance of producing and editing key documents in a timely fashion. “”You can always receive a printed document — you could fax it and write in the customer’s name by hand. What this does is take that to the next level of sophistication and it allows you to personalize the document before you print it.””

However, MacMillan cautioned that updated documents are only valuable if everyone can access them and there aren’t stale copies still being circulated.

Just last week Kitchener, Ont.-based firm PrinterOn Corp. announced a similar alliance with RIM to deliver its own mobile document management software. PrinterOn’s wireless application allows for printing, viewing and faxing. It requires a small piece of code downloaded onto the BlackBerry. PrinterOn also has a version available for Palm’s i705 device.

PrinterOn vice-president of sales Stephen Hearn said the fact that Xerox has thrown its weight behind BlackBerry for mobile printing is an indication his firm is on the right path. “”It validates that we have selected a market where there is a requirement — which is always good news.””

In September of last year, another printing giant, Hewlett-Packard, made rumblings about a wireless printing application for the BlackBerry, but hasn’t delivered on a product yet.

There will certainly be other announcements in the near future, predicted MacMillan, since mobile document management is still a growth field. The brand recognition of giants like HP and Xerox may give them a head start in the market, but doesn’t ensure their success. She cited RIM itself as an example of a small company that has managed to compete with more established players. “”This is a small Canadian company that has become known worldwide. I think this world is open to innovative companies that might be very small.””

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