by David Batterson
Blackberry Internet Edition
The blackberry pager from Research In Motion (RIM) offers a painless, wireless way to remain in touch via e-mail. While pagers are handy, most of them don’t work well with e-mail. And while a PDA, like the Palm VII, will provide wireless e-mail by forwarding messages from a user’s ISP or Microsoft Exchange mailbox to a Palm.net e-mail address, it comes with a higher price tag. (The Palm VII costs $449 and $44.99 a month for unlimited usage.) The BlackBerry device solves that dilemma, and is less expensive too.
RIM introduced the BlackBerry for Microsoft Exchange over a year ago, aimed at corporate users of Microsoft Exchange Server 5.5. With this system, a user’s incoming and outgoing e-mail is routed through a desktop mailbox and automatically synchronized with Blackberry. We tested the newer BlackBerry Internet Edition. This version was created so that an ISP, like RCN (www.rcn.com/blackberry/index.htm) can offer customers a wireless device that lets them access their e-mail accounts on the road. Other ISP’s offering the BlackBerry include Espernet.com, OneMain.com, and AOL.
Unlike the Palm VII, there is no antenna to raise and then connect to get or send e-mail. Instead, mail arrives automatically (that is, any time the BlackBerry is powered on). Composed e-mail messages are sent out immediately, as long as users are within the network coverage area. Also, synchronizing the built-in PIM to ACT!, Microsoft Outlook, Lotus Organizer, or other popular programs is simple. It’s automatic upon placing the BlackBerry in its tiny docking cradle.
For testing and reviewing purposes RIM set up a special e-mail account for us. When users obtain a BlackBerry from an ISP, they keep their regular e-mail address (such as [email protected] com). BlackBerry operates over the reliable, nationwide BellSouth Intelligent Wireless Network in the U.S., and the Rogers AT&T wireless data network in Canada.
The BlackBerry features a petite keyboard, along with a clever thumb-operated track-wheel device used to scroll through and click on-screen icons. The keyboard has helpful shortcuts, such as holding down a key to turn a letter into upper case. The spiffy AutoText feature automatically corrects misspelled words and users can create macros (like typing initials to enter a name, phone, mailing address, or e-mail address).
For the BlackBerry Internet Edition pricing is determined by the ISP, which supplies the units.
While the BlackBerry is a utilitarian gadget that makes it very easy to use e-mail, hard core PDA users won’t likely change teams midstream and migrate over to the BlackBerry. The rest should give it try.