It may seem from my title that I am going to write about Blackberry's recent successes and setbacks reaching a resolution to the patent saga. Likely something will eventually be worked out, because it is both company's best interest to do so, so ignore the dire warnings that service may be stopped, etc.
However, this is an opportunity to think about how services and devices are tied to one another, and what the ramifications are of that.
Push email is Blackberry's killer app, and their devices mirror that functionality with the great thumb board, and an experience that makes reading and sending email a transparent experience.
The way that Blackberry does this is with their intermediate server technology, which talks between an email server and the device. Blackberry's initial technology for transporting data was using pager technology, and this infrastructure design betrays it's past. Now, it's moderately more sophisticated, but just moderately.
This is Blackberry's problem. They are a device manufacturer, they are a service provider, they are a software developer. They have a devoted following.
However, cell phones are getting smarter. The Treo is a decent replacement, and soon there will be devices that even more closely mirror the device functionality of the Blackberry, but do not need the Blackberry data service, since they will have sophisticated enough email clients, and fast enough data connections, where push email may be as quaint an idea as the pager itself.
The message here is only peripherally about Blackberry. It is really about the validity of open standards combined with services and devices. It becomes a marketplace of ideas, where people are able to choose what they want, with the service provider they want, and in turn, everyone has to innovate, focus on their customers, anticipate needs, keep costs reasonable.
This, I believe, may be Blackberry's biggest challenge. But it is really a challenge that not just faces businesses, but faces education as well.
More about that soon (really, I swear).