One is called BES, or BlackBerry Enterprise Server. It is installed behind the firewall at medium/large corporations. It does push email and sync with Exchange.
The other one is called BIS, or BlackBerry Internet Service. No server software is installed. You open a wap page on your BB, tell RIM where your email is (Yahoo, Gmail or your POP/IMAP server) and your email gets pulled from your server and then pushed on your device (kinda push email ;-) However, there is no sync. None. You have to plug in your cable in your PC to sync with your Outlook. And you have to install the horrible BlackBerry Desktop software to do it.
The interesting thing that many people do not know is that BIS is half of the BlackBerry users today. And growing faster than BES. The Pearl first and the other prosumer devices that RIM is pushing in the market are mostly attracting BIS users. And some BES replacement. But few new BES users.
I use a BlackBerry with BIS these days. The sync is provided by Funambol, with the local BlackBerry sync client (the new one syncs contacts, calendar, notes, tasks and even pictures). I have the Funambol plug-in in Outlook, which pushes the PIM data to the cloud, keeping it in sync with my BlackBerry. No cables. On top of it, I have a website where I can see my data and change it if I am far from my computer, I am too lazy to type on my BlackBerry or I am out of battery (which happens ;-) Both system can be accessed by my wife and my assistant, if they want to screw up with my calendar and life.
BTW, all the above is available today for free at my.funambol.com if you are a BIS user. If you are a carrier and you want to give this service to your BIS users, give us a call. It is one of the hottest products at Funambol these days.
I also use the Funambol email client on my BlackBerry, although it does not make too much sense because I could use BIS. The email client, though, makes sense if you use BES and you want to have a separate Inbox for your personal live, so that your assistant does not find out you like soccer or something else...
I use the BIS just to test it. I have a Yahoo and Gmail account set up. For a while, I noticed that every time I was sending out an email with Gmail, it would appear again in the Inbox (sometimes, more than once). I thought I was doing something wrong. Somehow the RIM marketing image of a "perfect company" created a reality distortion field. I could not imagine for a second this was a RIM bug, because it was just too big...
Yesterday, RIM announced BIS 2.6, the new release of the service. As part of the release, now you can see your password when you type it (wow) and, mostly:
*BlackBerry Internet Service 2.6 uses Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP) to integrate Gmail® webmail accounts. This integration protocol introduces the following benefits:What?? I wasn't stupid... It was a bug, fixed in the new release as a "benefit". Man, I wish I could go by with a bug like that in the open source world. The community would be yelling at us at the alpha stage (some would notice it even earlier in a nightly build...). Not a chance. And RIM is live worldwide. And Gmail is the fastest growing email system!
o Elimination of sent email messages appearing as received email messages in the message list on the BlackBerry smartphone
o One-way synchronization of read status, sent items, and deleted items.
There is more:
* To use these improvements, BlackBerry smartphone users must remove and reintegrate their Gmail webmail accounts.Whaaaat? I have to remove all my emails, open the awful WAP page, remove my account and create it again (but I could see my password now ;-)? To fix a bug??
I just can't believe it. The open source bar is just so high that quality is a must, not an optional. There is nothing marketing can do, when you are out there naked. They see you. You can't hide.
Open source is changing the way software is developed. It brings a different level of quality. It is destined to wipe out any closed source alternative. Yep, even if it is RIM, the perfect company with perfect software. Just wait (a few tens of years :-))