Tune out now if you're not a sys-admin in the US or Canada. All you sys-admin suckers still here? Good. I'm sure you've all read about the changes in Daylight Savings Time in 2007 brought on by the Energy Policy Act of 2005, but if you haven't, read all about it here. Bottom line: usually Daylight Savings Time happes on the first Sunday in April and the last Sunday in October, but starting this year, we'll spring forward on the second Sunday in March and roll our clocks back on the first Sunday in November. Why is this important? Because you'll want to head on over to read the February 2007 edition of the BlackBerry Connection, which has an article detailing how you'll need to patch your BlackBerry enterprise server before March 11th, 2007. Do it now, you know... for the children.
James Surowiecki wrote a fantastic article for The New Yorker which uses the issues RIM is facing with the NTP patents to illustrate how, in his words, the "... patent system is out of control." I'm not an anti-patent zealot (seems like the majority of the software patents in the news these days are nothing more than common sense 'patented'), but I'm not a big fan of these shell companies (like NTP) that don't actually make anything, but then I guess big companies use them too. But realistically, it's not NTP's fault: they're working the system. The USPTO is broken.
The latest issue of SDTimes has a short article about the new MDS Studio which is part of the upgrade pack that RIM recently released. The main feature the article talked about was the ability for developers to point to a WSDL file (which is an XML file that describes a web service for those of you who don't wear propeller hats) in MDS Studio and the IDE will automatically generate an application for you (with the caveat that users who use this application must have the MDS runtime installed on their BB's and the BES you're using must install the MDS Services for Web Services component).
This sounded like pretty cool stuff, so I had to try it out... after digging out some space on my hard drive and clicking past all the open source license agreements (
including Derby, Axis, Bouncy Castle Crypto library and Eclipse / WSDL4J), I opened up MDS Studio and created a new project. The first step when creating a project is to point to a WSDL file, of which I've got a couple... I popped in the WSDL URL, it brought up all the available methods for that endpoint and then automatically created an entire application with screens for every one of the available methods. NICE. Our local BES is running an older version so I couldn't test out a deployment, but I HIGHLY recommend you check this out if you're doing any kind of BlackBerry development. It looks very cool AND it's based on Eclipse (which I've complained about them not using before) so there will be very little cognitive dissonance if you're a avid Eclipse user like I am.
Download MDS Studio now (and make sure you've got about 700MB of free space on your machine)
The RIM folks are sponsoring a contest (grand prize $14,500!!) for BlackBerry games.
We are challenging BlackBerry developers and the mobile developer community to create the hottest new game for Java™-based BlackBerry devices.
Enter for the chance to win outstanding prizes, promotion on the BlackBerry website, and the opportunity to sell your game and have it promoted on the Handango Software Store for BlackBerry.
The BlackBerry Developer Gaming Challenge is intended for independent software vendors who can build and market a game designed for BlackBerry. All game entries must be in English, color and use Java technology.
Karen Murphy wrote in to tell me about the latest release of Consilient2 software which allows users of the Cyrus email server platform to use BlackBerry Enterprise Server. It's noteworthy because I didn't know that there were companies that were filling the holes left by RIM; obviously there are alot of companies not using Exchange, Notes or Groupwise. If you've always wanted to use a BlackBerry but your email server isn't one of those big three, check out Consilient2.
The long awaited BlackBerry 7270, which features 802.11b wireless access for companies that have deployed BlackBerry Enterprise Server 4.0 is in customer trials as we speak. If you're interested (and you presumably meet the requirements), you can fill out this form to request one.
"... Canadian government has intervened in the ongoing U.S. patent dispute involving Canadian-based Research in Motion. The Canadian government argues that the U.S. courts are giving U.S. patent law extra-territorial effect and ought to reconsider their decision."You can read the entire story on NYTimes.com, but in short, it appears that RIM is basically saying that because their relay servers (which you could argue is their core technology) are in Canada, the patents that NTP holds in the US don't apply. Surprisingly, they're getting some traction too. The Canadian government AND Earthlink are now formally supporting that argument. My instincts tell me that this is a big deal for both RIM and patent law in general.
Well written and very informative article on the transition RIM appears to be trying to make from a hardware company with software to a software / services company that also sells some hardware. One tidbit that stuck out to me was the note that carriers pay RIM between $5 & $10 per subscriber. Is that per month or year? If BlackBerry has 2 million subscribers and gets $10 per month for each subscriber, that's $$240 million dollars per year they get in revenue through subscriptions. Wow. But get this:
Sales of all of RIM's handsets, affectionately known as "crackberries" for their addictiveness, are expected almost to triple in this fiscal year. This would drive hardware revenue to 76% of the total in the 2006 fiscal year, up from 58% last year.Sales are expected to triple. That's a good year.
Computerworld ran a misleading headline a couple days ago titled "Nokia takes on Blackberry as wireless mobility set to explode". The main point of the article is that wireless email is going to be as ubiquitious as the phone in the future and that IT managers have a variety of tools to choose from when it comes to wireless email. The variety of choices include Nokia (the author mentions the upcoming Communicator 9500) and BlackBerry, but Nokia taking on BlackBerry doesn't mean a fight. It means (like I've mentioned before) that the BlackBerry client will be installed on the Communicator 9500, which is good news for both Communicator lovers and for RIM, which stands to benefit from even more BlackBerry Enterprise Server licenses sold.
The BlackBerry delivers your email every day, but did you know that by the end of this year about 6000 USPS managers will be equipped with BlackBerry devices?
Keeping ties. Use Research in Motion BlackBerry devices to keep managers in the loop. More than 4,000 USPS managers, including IT managers, use BlackBerry wireless messaging devices to stay connected and receive alerts. Another 2,000 managers will be using them by the end of the year.(source) It's notable because it's listed under a section titled "First-class IT practices", which "...highlights some of the practices that the U.S. Postal Service's information technology managers have found to be effective." Note that camera phones with MP3 players and BlueTooth are not on the list.
If you've ever wanted a BlackBerry and didn't have a good argument to present to your boss ("I'll be able to get fantasy football league stats anywhere I go!"), check these stats from a survey done by a bank after a pilot rollout:
Ninety-six percent of the pilot users stated the device significantly improved their business effectiveness. Eighty-three percent of users stated the mobile service improved their responsiveness and customer service. Forty-four percent reported direct revenue gains as a result of their increased responsiveness.(source) Not convincing enough? Read on:
According to a recent study by consulting firm AT Kearney, having secure, around-the-clock access to corporate data can increase employee productivity as much as 30%. Wirelessly enabling enterprise applications boosts profitability through reduced cycle times, increased asset utilisation and increased service levels.
So I run a couple blogs, one of which last night received over 400 spam comments. I get work email which isn't too bad, but sometimes can be overwhelming when a system goes down and sends an alert every two minutes resulting in hundreds of emails. And of this week, I'm getting my personal email on my Blackberry through Gmail, which is very helpful, but has resulted in probably 300 to 500 emails per day. The BlackBerry is probably the only decent email device out there so it handles the load no problem, but it's missing one feature I'd like to see: select all. CTRL-A. Isn't it wonderful to be able to do a search in Outlook or Gmail and then click 'select all' or CTRL-A and either mark them all as read or delete them? If you get 300 emails from a system that went down overnight you don't care about each one, you just want to delete all of them so you can see if there is anything else interesting in your inbox. Right now what I have to do is use the ALT button and the scroll wheel in combination, which leads to alot of scrolling, deleting, waiting, scrolling, deleting...etc. Is it too much to ask to add a SELECT ALL to the option menu?
Oh and one more... I mentioned that there are some handy keyboard shortcuts you can use to get around the BlackBerry email client. I've used the 'U' shortcut a couple times, which returns you to the last unread message. I'd love to have a variation on that one that filters all the the emails *except* those that are unread... If that can't happen, how about enabling me to perform a search by 'status' (read or unread) in the email search utility?
And by the way, if you happen to work at RIM, thanks for reading!
1. Calendar/contact list
2. Easily syncs with PC
3. Great battery life
6. Compact size
7. MP3 player
9. Large screen
10. GPS locator
11. 20+ gigabyte memory
Internet.com reported today on the rollout of an application designed for the Blackberry platform from PeopleSoft called "PeopleSoft Enterprise Sales for Blackberry". I mention it not because you can actually buy them now or use them as a regular Joe Average Blackberry user, but more because it these applications seem pretty, well, cool. The application from PeopleSoft is a Sales Force Automation (SFA) tool that keeps sales reps always up-to-date with all the information they need to continually bother people like me(did I say that?). The cool part about it is this "trickle sync" technology they talk about: "... a data synchronization method based on the BlackBerry push and always-on architecture, ensures data accuracy by detecting when a wireless connection is available and automatically refreshing data. As a result, users can access and update data at any time without synchronizing data on their own." From the looks of it, they're probably using a combination of some of the cool 'push' ability that you get with a Blackberry Enterprise Server and the Record Management System in J2ME Mobile Information Device Profile (MIDP) to send out information from the server that handles SFA duties directly to the handheld and then letting the handheld store only the information related to that particular sales rep. Sounds like a winner, especially since the user doesn't have to do the synchronization. I've found with my own Blackberry and prior experience with a Palm that I synchronize my PC, laptop and PDA alot less frequently than I should, so this automatic handling of synchronization sounds like a wonderful tool.
Which brings me to the rant (one that other people have eloquently stated already): synchronization is a big problem. And not just for corporate users. I have a laptop with contacts in Outlook that when connected to the corporate network can see every contact my company and a personal address book within Outlook... that syncs with my Blackberry. I have contacts stored in Gmail but that doesn't syncrhonize with anything yet. Email is all over the place. My calendar is stored in Outlook and my Blackberry and getting data out of Outlook, while possible, is a pain. I'm not going to touch the thousands of photos and MP3's stored on my home computer and mirrored on my laptop... when and how will someone come up with a solution for synchronization? Could trickle sync be a start? Why doesn't Blackberry offer some kind of trickle sync technology with every Blackberry they sell? Where does SyncML fit into this?
The folks at RIM announced the availability of the Blackberry 7290; an upgrade to the 7280 platform. It's two biggest selling points are the availability of Bluetooth, which would allow you to use a Bluetooth headset or car kit and double the memory (32 MB flash memory plus 4 MB SRAM). Bluetooth is a radio itself, so that also means less talk time / standby time, although if it's like other phones I've used, you can turn Bluetooth off, which may then give you the same amount of talk / standby time; bottom line is that Bluetooth is tradeoff between usefulness and battery life. It's a touch heavier (.1 ounce!) and now works on the 900 frequency in Europe/Asia Pacific. Initially it's available from Cingular.
Good news for users of wireless Palm devices: RIM announced today that they will be releasing BlackBerry Connect software for existing Palm OS-based wireless devices, like the Palm Tungsten W pictured to the left. This announcement is another adjustment of the ship that points to RIM understanding that their business is not about handsets; it's the platform. The Tungsten (not to mention the Treo) had all the features except for always-on Blackberry email plus it offered expandability, infrared, a built-in camera (in the case of the Treo) and a stylus for those that prefer point and click. In short, the only reason you'd want to carry around a Blackberry 7200 series instead of a Treo would be the push email that the Blackberry offered. No more.
PC Magazine reports on a couple new phones from Nokia, notably the brick-like 9300, which, when it debuts in 1st quarter of '05 will come equipped with Blackberry Connect software. It's definitely good news for RIM on the platform front, let's look at it stacks up to a 7280:
It's also a possibility that Blackberries are used differently than most PDA/phone combinations. I know a large number of people that have Blackberries that also have a regular cell phone, almost as if the Blackberry is used more like a Palm device than a PDA/phone combination, albeit with always on email connectivity. Either way, I'd much rather carry around a smaller Blackberry with a tad less functionality than a bigger 9300 clamshell brick.
In platform related news, infoSync World is reporting that phones loaded with Symbian OS Series 80 will be equipped to communicate with the Blackberry Connect push server. Other licensees include the HTC Pocket PC, Sony Ericsson P900 and P910, Motorola MPx and MPx220 and Samsung.
It seems that the guys at RIM understand that their business is the platform and not the devices. While the Blackberry device itself has been wildly popular, it's an indefensible position; other phone manufacturers have phone / PDA / keyboard combinations on the market already. It's the instant email that makes Blackberries kick ass.