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The BlackBerry Gets a Black Eye, And Other Mobile-Phone News

Hundreds of thousands of busy "knowledge workers" had to pay attention to their dinner companions for the first time in years when Research In Motion's BlackBerry e-mail service crashed for several hours yesterday afternoon and evening.

As a longtime skeptic of the BlackBerry e-mail cult, I must admit that I reacted to the news with a bit of schadenfreude. I've never liked the centralized architecture of RIM's mail system, in which you give this company the keys to your mail account so that its servers can take over delivering mail to your phone. (It puzzles me why companies pay RIM for this service when they could have real-time mail delivery--and not just to one brand of smartphone, but to any mail program on any device--by using the right open standard.) Yesterday, that monolithic design turned into a single point of failure.

Elsewhere in the mobile-phone business, Microsoft was making its own news yesterday at a convention in Barcelona.

First, it announced that it would buy Danger, Inc., the colorfully named company behind T-Mobile's popular Sidekick smartphones. It's unclear what this means for the future of the Sidekick's hardware and software. But in the past, when Microsoft has bought companies whose products run non-Windows software--such as WebTV--it has made a point of switching these gadgets over to some version of Windows. So will we see a Sidekick running Windows Mobile? Will it be as quick and simple as today's model?

At the same convention, Microsoft and Sony Ericsson unveiled a new slide-open model called the Xperia X1 yesterday, the first from Sony and Ericsson's joint venture to run Windows Mobile. From pictures at SE's site, it looks a bit like an iPhone, but has a QWERTY keyboard that slides out from the side and is not quite as thin as Apple's device, at about .7 inches thick. This model should go on sale in the U.S. in the second half of this year, at a price to be announced.

For your comments, please pick from one or more of the following themes:

1) "I was part of yesterday's BlackBerry blackout, and boy was that terrible/not as bad as I'd thought."

2) "I'm a Sidekick user, and I'm concerned/excited about what Microsoft will do here."

3) "I've liked the Sony Ericsson phones that I've used before, and the prospect of one running Windows Mobile intrigues/discourages me."

4) "I don't care about BlackBerries or Windows Mobile, because I use an iPhone/carry a Palm Treo or Centro/am waiting to buy a Google Android smartphone/rely on pay phones."

By Rob Pegoraro  |  February 12, 2008; 12:31 PM ET
Categories:  Gadgets  
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Next: Relationship 2.0: Two People, Two iPods, One iTunes Library


Since you mentioned Sony Ericsson, I read that this year they plan to start aggressively targeting the American market. I think they said they'll be introducing CDMA phones which would be a big change. I've used SE phones for years on T-Mobile by buying unlocked phones because I love their interface and features.

Posted by: logan | February 12, 2008 12:49 PM | Report abuse

good usage of the word, but there is only one "n" in Schadenfreude.

Posted by: MR | February 12, 2008 1:15 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: Hemisphire | February 12, 2008 1:44 PM | Report abuse

MR: I'm blaming the stupid spell-check :)

- RP

Posted by: Rob Pegoraro | February 12, 2008 2:01 PM | Report abuse

i hardly even noticed the outage on BB and i carry one.

Posted by: bigbadvoodoodaddy | February 12, 2008 2:30 PM | Report abuse

4 - Treo specifically...

Posted by: slar | February 12, 2008 2:46 PM | Report abuse

Rob-People (er..corporations) choose platforms like RIM's and Good's (owned by Motorola) because they not only provide email, but can provide synchronization of address books and calendars, secure, encrypted access to internal applications and remote management of devices allowing a coporation to protect its data. Something that IMAP alone cannot do. Also, because a corporation only has an *outgoing* connection from their Blackberry server to RIM (the devices never actually talk directly to a company's own BES server), there's no need to secure a network to ensure only mobile devices (and not every hacker on the planet) punches thru the firewall and connects to your messaging / instant messaging / application servers.

As someone who administers a rather large Blackberry infrastructure (and swears by his Palm Treo), I can tell with little doubt that RIM offers the most complete product for corporations.

HOWEVER, RIM only notifies its LARGEST customers of scheduled outages and provides almost no information about unscheduled outages to all of its customers. It's very disconcerting when RIM acknowledges to the press that there's a problem before they will admit it to their customers. Many corporations pay lots of money each year for support contracts with RIM and are constantly let down by the level of that support during an outage.

Posted by: Gregg | February 12, 2008 4:20 PM | Report abuse

Great! So Microsoft wants to get into the cell phone market now that they have seen Apple be successful at it. Sounds awfully similar to the Zune. I would love for them to actually create something useful instead of their last copy of an Apple product or their bloated operating system that barely runs on computers with the most up to date hardware. Still it would be nice if somebody would do like Rob keeps espousing and all of us consumers keep craving for and make a product with features we want, that is easy to use and does things in the simplest way possible. You would think there were not enough good engineers and programers in the world to figure out how to create these kinds of gadgets.

Posted by: TG | February 12, 2008 4:22 PM | Report abuse

4 (Palm Centro)

Posted by: tam | February 12, 2008 7:24 PM | Report abuse

4. iPhone. Have had our own Edge outages, though.

Posted by: Podesta | February 13, 2008 2:52 AM | Report abuse

Number 4. I've been a loyal Palm user since the days of the PalmPilot Personal Edition. I still like the Palm platform even though it has become a bit dated. I currently have a T|X.

Posted by: Charles in Houston | February 19, 2008 2:30 PM | Report abuse

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