I had my first real opportunity to use a Blackberry 7230 in lieu of a laptop on my trip to San Francisco last week. I realized pretty quickly that this device's mobile email capability is second to none. The Blackberry Web Client (a service for individual Blackberry users who are not clients to a Blackberry Enterprise Server) provides excellent relaying between the Blackberry and the Operation Gadget mail server.
The 7230 needs a better browser. The one installed by default works best with WAP sites. It doesn't seem to deal well with Movable Type's back end or other sites that use password protection driven by cookies. Reportedly, the browser developed by Reqwireless dramatically improves this situation. If there are other solutions, I will point them out.
I used a Blackberry regularly back before I bought my Treo 180. Back then, Blackberrys primarily ran on Mobitex. It was impractical and expensive to forward all of my normal email to a handheld those devices, so I only used my original Blackberry for urgent email communication.
Today's Blackberrys have cheaper service plans and faster data rates, thanks to their support of GPRS. T-Mobile's service was available anywhere I needed it in the Bay Area, at the airports in Los Angeles and Phoenix, and all the way to and from the Philadelphia International Airport.
Most of the problems I had dealing with email turned out to be related to the way I use my primary email account. Here are a few lessons learned:
- Make sure the email accounts going to your Blackberry are spam filtered.
- Split the following types of messages off from your regular email account in some manner:
- mail list subscriptions,
- server status messages, and
- other email alerts.
- mail list subscriptions,
- Spend at least one hour the day before you leave on your first business trip with your Blackberry reviewing all aspects of your email configuration. Decide which of your email accounts should be part of the mail stream for the trip. Subscribe and unsubscribe from mailing lists as necessary.
- Know your Blackberry Web Client storage quota, if you have one. Purge it if there is any possibility that you are going to run out of space. It is difficult or impossible to do this during a trip without access to a PC.
- Ensure that you bring the charging cable for your Blackberry on the trip. The battery life on the 7230 is generally excellent, but power consumption doesn't always seem constant to me. Be prepared for an unexpected need to recharge.
I read that Clayton Christensen warned Microsoft that they should buy Research in Motion to prevent applications from migrating from the PC (a platform they control) to Blackberrys and other mobile devices (that they don't control). This is an extremely insightful comment.
I don't think that the Blackberry platform is quite ready to take over PC and laptop tasks, but I think my perspective is heavily influenced by the industry in which I work. From the perspective of other vertical markets, the Blackberry may have already achieved the maturity it needs. YMMV.