I wrote recently about the new WiFi-enabled device from RIM. Now that the 8820 has been officially announced, I'm trying to get my head around exactly what the deployment scenarios are.
It seems that it does indeed come in both "operator-oriented" and "non-operator/enterprise-owned" variants.
The device's specific website for the UK has this to say about the WiFi functionality, which makes it seem like purely a service provider play:
If you have signed up for a qualifying BlackBerry® data plan¹ through your service provider, you can also use your BlackBerry® 8820 smartphone to access your BlackBerry data services over virtually any Wi-Fi network.
Voice Support over UMA/GAN
If your service provider offers UMA/GAN support, you can also take advantage of full voice functionality² over any Wi-Fi network supported by your service provider
OK, so the much-rumoured UMA support is embedded, no particular surprise there. I guess the major use case will be so that employees on T-Mobile US can use the thing at home where coverage is lousy, and also in Starbucks etc. I see from the RIM website it's shipping France too, so I guess there's an Orange Uniq variant as well. The press release mentions AT&T - but unless it's done (another) volte-face it doesn't have a currently announced plan to support UMA.
But the data support option is the more weird one - does this mean that you need to get your carrier's permission before you use it on you own WiFi network? So if I'm sitting in my office, connecting to my exchange server in my basement over my WiFi - or going out over my local ISP connection... I have to pay my operator for the privilege?! Maybe this is what the AT&T reference is about in the press release.
Also still unclear is whether the device is usable by enterprises for non-operator VoWLAN. Can I put a Cisco or Avaya softphone on it and connect directly to my IP-PBX via the Internet, as you can do with a normal Symbian or Windows smartphone? Is there an addressable 'naked' SIP stack? Unfortunately the full specs for the 8820 aren't on RIM's website yet.
It could be that it's only designed for operator-managed dual-mode IP-PBX based solutions using SIP, such as BT's Corporate Fusion offering. I could see AT&T playing in that space as well.
On the other hand.... it's started selling direct via Carphone Warehouse in the UK, which can activate the devices on 3 different operators' networks. Sounds like RIM may be edging slowly to carrier-neutral distribution after all.