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The Net Takeaway: Blackberry Adventures

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Blackberry Adventures · 07/22/2005 11:44 PM, Tech

UPDATE 2/3/2006: Actually, with the new downloadable OS from Verizon, and a bit of account work with Verizon, the BB 7250 now does “tether” or act like a modem. A slow modem, but a modem nonetheless.

As part of my recent travels, I’ve been wondering about increased access while in airports for me and other folks at my company. Some options included using cards in our laptops to access the Verizon high-speed data network. Others included “smartphones”. I’ve been testing a Blackbery 7250. Like all Verizon phones, it is CDMA meaning great coverage around NY/Boston (and much of the US), but useless in UK. I’ve also played with a Palm Treo 650, and I’ve been a PocketPC (WinCE/MicrosoftMobile/etc.) user for many years, so keep that in mind. Also, I’m not a phone guy: I don’t SMS very often, couldn’t care less about ringtones or customization, but I do love my internet.

Summary: Great device if you are willing to live with limitations. Without server software, there are some annoying extra steps to take full advantage of the device. But the ability to be alerted to problem emails and respond, from anywhere, is a nice thing for a service oriented company or an email addict. Up to a point, it can replace use of laptops while on the road (or at least, in airports and cars) for many users. It can decrease response time for emergency issues for multiple types of staffers. But the data costs can kill you unless you are getting your company to pay for it. In addition, the server costs are pretty bad unless you have your email hosted with a company who already offers such a thing. There is no real “server” option for the average user to throw on their own machine, just a “desktop client” which I describe below.

Compared to alternatives (larger MS PocketPC devices, Treo 650 which requires some configuration to work as smoothly as BBerry), this is a very well designed device, and with the BES (Blackberry Enterprise Server) software, can really empower employees to react to email anywhere at any time.

(And, if the size annoys you, Verizon is rumoured to release a 71xx form factor (like a phone) called either the 7130 or 7150 which is more pocket sized, late fall (ie end of 3rd or mid 4th qtr).

Additionally, there are other server gateways as in this NetworkComputing review which push to Palm and other devices. Finally, MS says that it will give a free patch to Exchange 2003 which will push email to MS Mobile 5.0 devices and eliminate the need for BB or Palms. I’m not holding my breath, but good to keep an eye on these things.

Places for more info:

Along with the obvious, like RIM, and the carriers, which include T-Mobile, Verizon, Cingular, and others…

PS: So, how does it send all that great email and stuff? Well, my research implies that its basically sending coded SMS messages. That’s why it downloads emails in “chunks” and makes you select “more” from the menu to get the rest. Clever idea, but a bit of a hack. Still, they make it work pretty well…

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