The wireless data communications medium of today is struggling to define itself. It is clear that this medium is enormously important; it is also enormously complex, with major technical, societal and business consequences that no one fully understands.
Of the many questions that this new medium raises, two of the most basic are: (1) What is the most appropriate starting-point application, and (2) What is the best way to implement this application? In other words, what wireless application is of the most immediate and compelling value, and what is the most appropriate model for delivering this application?
We believe that the answers to these questions have now become clear. The right entry-point application is Mobile Messaging, and the right implementation model is an entirely open paradigm, based on open and free protocols.
Mobile Messaging is in complete harmony with the wireless medium, provides users with an incontrovertible value proposition, and has already achieved widespread market acceptance.
And a completely open paradigm is the right model for all large-scale communications systems. An open industry model provides the greatest benefit to the end user and the industry at large, by allowing free market entry and competition at any point within the Mobile Messaging solution domain. This in turn results in greatly increased business opportunities, more and better solutions for the end user, and unrestricted industry growth.
Unfortunately, these two key ideas are not well understood within the wireless industry. Numerous wireless initiatives are under way, but in all cases these are misdirected either because they are pursuing the wrong application, or because they are pursuing the right application but based on the wrong model.
As a result of this, the wireless industry of today is in a state of chaos. A large segment of the industry, most notably the WAP Forum, has mischaracterized the major entry-point application, and is pursuing wireless web browsing and other second-string applications.
Meanwhile, another industry segment is investing in the right application, but based on the wrong model. Mobile Messaging is the right application, but this industry segment is characterized by the existence of various closed, proprietary solutions such as BlackBerry and ReFLEX. The components of these competing systems do not interoperate, and they cannot build on each others assets. The result of this is the fragmentation of the Mobile Messaging market into a number of isolated islands of consumers, each committed to a particular solution and unable to take advantage of the assets of any other island.
The remedy to all this exists, in the form of a set of protocols called the Lightweight & Efficient Application Protocols, or LEAP. LEAP is a set of high-performance, efficient protocols which are ideal for mobile and wireless applications. In this article we describe how equivalent Mobile Messaging functionality to the existing closed systems can be provided, in the form of an entirely open solution based on the LEAP protocols. Our goal is to use the inherent power of truly open and free protocols to displace these closed solutions. We refer to the execution of this goal as Operation WhiteBerry.
WhiteBerry provides true Mobile Messaging, based on a set of open protocols - and therefore represents the right application and the right model. All the pieces required to implement WhiteBerry exist and are in place, and the openness of the WhiteBerry solution ensures that it will displace all existing closed solutions.
The wireless industry of today is characterized by systems which are closed, restricted, and which violate the Internet End-to-End principle. Two of these are of particular relevance:
WAP is discussed in detail in the article entitled The WAP Trap , while BlackBerry is discussed in the present article.
Our analyses of the WAP and BlackBerry systems are very different. As we argue in The WAP Trap, WAP is a bogus marketing construct that can bring nothing but harm to the industry and the consumer. WAP claims to be an open specification, but in fact it is anything but - on the contrary, it is booby-trapped with patents. Furthermore, the basic premise of WAP (namely, that of providing Web browsing capability on a cell phone) is inherently limited and impractical, and is the wrong starting point application.
Mobile Messaging systems such as BlackBerry, on the other hand, bring unquestionable value to the user, and these systems have experienced widespread usage as a result. Without exception, however, all existing Mobile Messaging system are closed, and the emerging competitive scenario is that of a struggle among these closed systems.
Thus, while part of the wireless industry now appears to understand the enormous importance of the Mobile Messaging application, it does not appear to understand the importance of the open model.
The solution to this closed-system battle is not another set of products and services. Rather, the solution is the industry-wide adoption of the right set of open protocols as the basis for interoperability and cooperation.
Throughout this article, we will take the BlackBerry system from RIM as a particular example of a closed Mobile Messaging system. In common with other messaging systems, BlackBerry brings unquestionable value to the user. But despite its end user value, BlackBerry remains a closed, single-vendor system, based on a set of proprietary protocols. The proprietary nature of the underlying protocols prevents competition on the basis of any of the constituent components of the BlackBerry system.
And this is something which is true in general: closed systems diminish competitive opportunity. It is, of course, entirely possible for a closed system to encounter competition in the form of another closed system. However, the market entry barriers and competitive challenges are far greater for a competing system than for a competing system component - such as a wireless modem, for example.
Therefore closed systems act to inhibit competition both at system level and component level. This inhibition of competition is all to the good of the company that owns the closed system - which is the fundamental raison d'etre for all closed systems, of course. However, this same inhibition of competition acts greatly to the detriment of the industry at large and the consumer.
In contrast to this emphasis on minority business self-interests, we are committed to the following principles:
These principles are emphasized throughout this article, and in general throughout The LEAP Manifesto .
In this article we describe how the equivalent functionality to BlackBerry can be implemented in the form of a completely open system, based on existing technologies and protocols. We refer to this open equivalent to BlackBerry as the WhiteBerry solution. In contrast to BlackBerry, WhiteBerry is a multi-vendor solution, allowing market entry and competition at any point within the Mobile Messaging technology chain. The result is greatly increased business opportunities throughout the Mobile Messaging industry, increased competition, and better solutions for the end user.
Though we are presenting WhiteBerry as an open alternative to BlackBerry, there is nothing unique about BlackBerry in this regard. WhiteBerry represents an open alternative to any closed Mobile Messaging system, including others besides BlackBerry such as Mail on the Run! from River Run Software Group, and ReFLEX from Motorola. We have chosen BlackBerry as the subject of this article because it is in widespread use, and at this point appears to be the market leader. However, the same principles of openness versus closedness apply equally to any closed Mobile Messaging system.
The entire WhiteBerry solution that we describe in this article is complete and available today. The key component of WhiteBerry is a set of mobile messaging protocols. These are complete, fully satisfy all necessary technical requirements, are truly open and patent-free, and have been published as RFCs. In addition, a comprehensive framework for the development of WhiteBerry implementations has been established. This framework consists of free, open-source software implementations of the protocols, an open public forum for the development and distribution of integration tools, an initial set of free Subscriber Services, and an initial end-to-end WhiteBerry implementation. Anyone can use these tools and facilities to create a fully functional WhiteBerry Mobile Messaging implementation immediately.
Furthermore, the WhiteBerry development framework is highly generalized, and goes beyond simply duplicating the limited capabilities of the BlackBerry system - it also allows the development of a more general set of wireless applications, including Instant Messaging and others. A discussion of some of the future possibilities of the WhiteBerry model is provided in Section 9.
We begin this article by discussing the general functional requirements for Mobile Messaging. We then describe how these requirements are provided by a typical closed system, using BlackBerry as an example. Next we provide a detailed description of the WhiteBerry model, and show how it provides equivalent functionality to BlackBerry, based on an open model. We then describe the WhiteBerry development framework, and discuss the security issues relating to Mobile Messaging.
The solution we propose is not just an academic, engineering exercise; it also has a well-founded business dimension. As will become clear later, there is a great deal of money to be made in Operation WhiteBerry.
The Free Protocols Foundation (FPF) is a non-profit organization dedicated to the support of patent-free protocols and software. The FPF views software patents as being extremely harmful to the industry and the consumer, and part of the FPF mandate is to oppose such patents when they appear. For more information see the FPF website at http://www.freeprotocols.org/.
Research In Motion (RIM), the manufacturer of the BlackBerry system, has recently been granted U.S. Patent # 6,219,694 on the basis of its BlackBerry technology, and is now suing a competing company (Glenayre Electronics, Inc.) for infringement against this patent. Therefore not only does BlackBerry limit competitive opportunity by virtue of being a closed system, but now RIM has taken a giant step beyond that in terms of anti-competitive practices: it is attempting to eliminate all competition entirely.
The FPF regards this patent as fundamentally invalid, and RIM's infringement claim as an egregious example of patent law abuse. For a detailed FPF position statement on this patent see the FPF paper Position Statement regarding the RIM Mobile E-Mail Patent Assertion , available on-line at http://www.FreeProtocols.org/rimBBPatent/main.html.
The FPF is strenuously opposing this patent by means of a variety of actions; see the above position statment for details. One of the general strategies by which the FPF opposes patented software is by supporting the creation and development of patent-free alternatives. Since Operation WhiteBerry describes an open, patent-free alternative to the closed and patented BlackBerry system, it is directly aligned with this strategy.
Therefore, as part of its broad compaign to oppose the RIM patent, the
Free Protocols Foundation endorses Operation WhiteBerry fully,
and is pleased to re-publish this revision of the paper on its own
website. Operation WhiteBerry was first published and remains
available on the LEAP Forum website at