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First BlackBerry, now Good?

First BlackBerry, now Good?

I was feeling so superior. While information wonks at every business that has a BlackBerry e-mail server were worrying about what to do if the NTP patent lawsuit really shuts down BlackBerry, I was sitting pretty, reading e-mails on my Treo that came in via our company's Good Technology system.

But now we learn that Good Technology is facing down a patent struggle of its own: Wireless e-mail company Visto is saying that Good infringes on four of its key patents. It's not clear right now where these patents came from, since Visto actually licenses some of NTP's patents, and NTP owns a piece of Visto.

The whole wireless e-mail thing is becoming a hairy mess. I still think getting e-mail on a handheld device is a critical business tool, but at this point, it's hard to recommend investing in a system that may end up illegal or crippled or that may require a major software update to stay in business. Likewise, I would avoid the companies that are lobbying these patent lawsuits--partly on principle and partly because if the companies require these legal maneuverings to stay in business and they lose their cases, their futures will also be in jeopardy.

The best bet now is to not lock yourself in. Use devices that can support multiple e-mail systems, like Treos or Windows Mobile-based handhelds, and outsource the server side of the equation. No small business can afford to deal with the technology confusion these lawsuits are causing.