GMail on Your BlackBerry: Latest Client Offers Significant Featur

A few days ago I upgraded to version 1.5.1.1090 of the GMail client for my BlackBerry 8130. (This is a native, stand-alone, J2ME client application. In other words, it does not require a Web browser.) Previously, and for the past few months, I’ve been using version 1.1.x of this same client. 

The download and installation went very smoothly. One surprise, however, was the need for a reboot of the BlackBerry to complete the installation of the client. I don’t recall that need with previous releases. I can only suppose that this requirement is necessary to enable the deeper integration of the GMail client with the BlackBerry platform.
And that’s a good segue … What’s new? Well: 
  • Contact manager – This is the most significant feature/functionality enhancement. On opening the contact manager, a display of those with whom you interact with the most is presented. There’s also a search functionality that allows you to rapidly retrieve any of your contacts in the familiar way. And of course, should you wish, you can list all of your contacts. Once you’ve selected a contact from the “Most Contacted” list or via search, your contact’s details are presented. Just below the contact details is a link that allows you to display recent conversations with the identified contact. Very powerful. Very Google. Very nice! All of this means that you can initiate a new conversation or pick up on an existing one from the contact manager.  
  • Notification – The notification capability is also a significant enhancement in my estimation. What this means is that an icon resembling a bottle cap appears over top of the GMail client icon to indicate the arrival of new mail. This capability is integrated with your BlackBerry profile so you can associate in and out-of-holster behaviors to signal the arrival of new mail. The only thing missing now is the summary icon that is displayed by other applications in the upper-right corner of the BlackBerry’s screen. This capability is enabled via a new setting; select “More”, then “Settings” before placing a check mark against the notification option. There are a few more settings that are new to me – one allows for larger fonts, while the other allows for the “Sent from my mobile device” tag line. 
  • Finish Later – In the event that you are unable to finish composing a message, this version allows you to finish composition later. Note however, that only one draft can be saved. This is a welcome addition that I found myself pining for in previous releases.
As far as I can tell, that summarizes the features that I found new in this release. Based on a few days’ worth of experience, the implementation appears solid and performs well, making the upgrade highly worthwhile.
You can grab the GMail client for your mobile device by pointing the device’s Web browser at gmail.com/app. See Google Mobile GMail  for the details.
If you’re using Google Apps for Your Domain (GAFYD), point your mobile device’s Web browser at http://m.google.com/a. See the Google Apps page for more.
If you want to see what I’ve written previously about the GMail client for the BlackBerry click here.

 

BlackBerry Rules the Back Office – For Now …

I’ve had a BlackBerry 8830 for a few months now. And I must admit, I’m getting over my iPhone envy. (iPhone’s still aren’t officially available in Canada!) The 8830 has the tactile keypad I’ve grown to love, a (two-dimensional) trackball in place of a (one-dimensional) thumbwheel, GPS-based mapping, etc. This means that built-in WiFi is about the only capability for which I find myself wanting.

But enough about the client-side device (CSD).
So much of the value delivered to the CSD is because of what’s in the back office – behind the scenes, as it were.
In writing a book review on BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) installation and administration, I was reminded of this aspect on the ongoing BlackBerry vs. iPhone battle.
What’s in the BlackBerry back office?
Allow me to itemize:
  • Integration – The BES integrates the CSD with the enterprise messaging platform (e.g., Microsoft Exchange, IBM Lotus Notes, etc.) and the rest of RIM’s BlackBerry universe. In addition to email and calendaring, this has the potential to include instant messaging (e.g., MSN, IBM Lotus Sametime, etc.) and more.
  • Security – Because the BES provides a single locus of control (the BlackBerry domain), it can and has been leveraged extensively to deliver an industry leading environment for end-to-end security. Encryption, authentication, plus six levels for administrative roles, are all present.
  • Policies  – To quote from my review:

The BES ships with over 200 policies that can be applied variously to users, groups and devices … The ability to administer users, groups and devices with respect to policies (including software), from a single point of control (i.e., the BES server), speaks volumes to the appeal and value that this offering can deliver to corporate enterprise environments. 

  • Provisioning – The BES facilitates provisioning of users, groups, devices as well as associated software. Software can even be bundled and targeted to specific CSDs.
The back office supporting the iPhone has a long, long way to go to catch up with all of this – if that’s even a plan that Apple has.
In fact, a far greater threat to the back-office portion of RIM’s BlackBerry universe is the ecosystem developing around Google Android.

Book Review: BlackBerry Enterprise Server for Microsoft Exchange

Packt Publishing claims its

… unique business model allows [them] to bring [us] more focused information, giving [us] more of what [we] need to know, and less of what [we] don’t.  

If Desai & Renfroe’s BlackBerry Enterprise Server for Microsoft Exchange: Installation and Administration is any indication, Packt actually lives up to its claim. In just 172 pages, Desai & Renfroe achieve an enviable balance between being concise and being comprehensive. This statement applies as much to what the authors have written, as to their choice of what to illustrate. Specifically:

  • Chapter 1 places the BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) in the broader context of Research In Motion’s (RIM) BlackBerry universe. In addition to itemizing relevant components, an introduction to the BlackBerry’s push model, security and Internet connectivity is provided. 
  • Though brief, Chapter 2 runs deep in addressing BES architecture and implementation planning. For example, we learn that the BES employs a modular architecture comprising over a dozen components. After succinctly enumerating the components and their function, BES requirements and prerequisites are identified. In addition to hardware and software requirements, recommendations are made with respect to networking your BES (e.g., firewall and/or proxy considerations) and providing it with a database. Easy to gloss over on first read are thoughtful recommendations on sizing the BES (including pointers to resources from RIM) and the database for the anticipated user load. 
  • Before BES components can be installed and enabled, the messaging environment and database server need to be configured. This is the subject of Chapter 3. Both local and remote database instances receive attention. Because each step is well illustrated, the book delivers on its intended purpose of serving as a solution guide.
  • The installation of the BES is a multistep process enabled via a wizard. As in the previous chapter, in Chapter 4 the authors guide the reader through this process making appropriate use of illustrations. They interject appropriate commentary, and are clear on out-of-scope topics. The early emphasis on delineating BES architecture (Chapter 1) is realized as the authors transition the reader through the BES installation. 
  • Of course, installing the BES is just the beginning, and therefore the next few chapters focus on the additional tasks required to operationally deliver this service to its users. After introducing the six permissible levels of administrative role on the BES, attention shifts in Chapter 5 to the matter of provisioning users, groups and devices. And with respect to devices, wireline and wireless options for provisioning are given consideration. 
  • The BES ships with over 200 policies that can be applied variously to users, groups and devices. Also covered in Chapter 6 is the topic of provisioning software from RIM and third parties. Of particular value is the authors’ example of a software bundle targeted to a particular BlackBerry model. The ability to administer users, groups and devices with respect to policies (including software), from a single point of control (i.e., the BES server), speaks volumes to the appeal and value that this offering can deliver to corporate enterprise environments. This Chapter’s treatment of policies and software provisioning serves as an excellent introduction to topics BES administrators will return to repeatedly, and likely with increasing degrees of sophistication. 
  • Unlike many of the other chapters, Chapter 7 provides only an overview of multitiered administration – i.e., properties and tasks relating to users, groups, (BlackBerry) domains and servers. This enumeration of possibilities, presented in context, works effectively. 
  • A deeper discussion on security is the focus of the first part of the final chapter (Chapter 8). Encryption and authorization, both of which receive detailed consideration, amplify the value of the BES and its context in the overall BlackBerry universe for corporate enterprises. An unanticipated treatment of disaster recovery closes Chapter 8. In sufficient detail to enable a solution, the authors discuss in turn the measures needed to ensure that both the server (the BES) and its data (housed by the BES’s local or remote database) are readied for a disaster situation. 

 

Although Desai and Renfroe’s BES book unapologetically targets the Microsoft Exchange environment, its value is not limited here. Those working in other environments, and those interested in learning more about BES’s place in the BlackBerry universe, will almost certainly derive value from this book. Because the book is clear and concise, yet surprisingly complete and well-organized, it is likely to be well-thumbed by BES administrators of varying expertise.  

With the possible exception of a concluding chapter, page, paragraph or even sentence(!), to provide some sense of closure to the book, I am at a loss to report any omissions, oversights or errors. And although they might be better suited for a follow-on contribution of some kind, additional discussion might be given to topics such as performance and scalability (e.g., of local versus remote databases), the mapping of BlackBerry domains to organizational units, and/or improved degrees of DR.

Even though the book I reviewed was a complimentary copy provided by the publisher, I would happily pay for my own copy, and heartily recommend this book to others having interest in BES installation and administration. 

Jott Announces Local Numbers for Canada!

The following message just arrived in my inbox:

From: “Jott Networks”
Date: February 13, 2008 1:39:32 PM GMT-05:00
To: ian DOT lumb AT gmail DOT com
Subject: Canadian Local Numbers Announced
Reply-To: feedback AT jott DOT comHi everyone,

We are happy to announce that Canadian local numbers are finally here!

As most of you know, we have had a Toronto Jott number (647-724-5814) for some time and have been working on acquiring more local numbers across Canada.

Still confused as to why we are not releasing a toll free number? Jott requires caller ID to know who is sending a Jott to what contact information. In an effort to protect your privacy, most Canadian mobile providers have blocked caller ID information from being passed to toll free numbers. This leaves the alternative of using local access numbers across the country, so that everyone can send Jott messages without having to pay long distance fees.

Below is the list of available Jott numbers in Canada. Find the number in your area code and program it to your speed dial today!

AURORA : +12898020110
CALGARY : +14037751288
EDMONTON : +17806287799
HALIFAX : +19024828120
HAMILTON : +19054819060
KITCHENER : +15199572711
LONDON : +15194898968
MARKHAM : +12898000110
MONTREAL : +15146670329
OTTAWA : +16136861502
QUEBEC CITY : +14189072209
SAINT JOHNS : +17097570047
SHERBROOKE : +18193401636
TORONTO : +16477245365
TORONTO : +14168001067
VANCOUVER : +17787868229
VANCOUVER : +16044841347
VICTORIA : +12509847093
WINDSOR : +15198000031
WINNIPEG : +12042728154

Brought to you by Jott.com – 1-866-JOTT-123
300 East Pike Street, Suite 200
Seattle, WA 98122
Click here to stop receiving emails like this.

This is excellent news!

And just in case this is your first visit to my blog, you can read other Jott-related posts here.

iPhone Envy? Live Vicariously!

Canadians are faced with the ongoing reality of iPhone envy.

And although we’re not alone, the iPhone feels so close …

Therefore, in the interim, I’m living vicariously by channeling experiences from those in the US.

I recently asked a tech-savvy, former-coworker, who actually has an iPhone: “How do you like your iPhone?”

Here’s what he had to say:

My wife and I both bought an iPhone. She is madly in love with hers. I really like mine. Occasionally, email doesn’t work the way one would expect which can be frustrating. The problems are related to 1) yahoo.com problems, 2) timing issues of using pop or 3) cannot connect to edge/wifi. But it hasn’t dampened our overall satisfaction with the phone.

Also, I can’t get work email as our exchange server doesn’t have IMAP enabled, but that’s cool since I don’t want work email on my personal phone. 🙂 Everyone who see’s the phone oohs and aahs about it even if they don’t realize that its an iPhone. It just has a really slick appearance to it. In particular, when you bring up photos or a web site and you turn the phone and the picture automatically reorients itself and then you use gestures to move around or to move to the next picture and resize the picture, they REALLY get excited.

Mostly, I just appreciate it because the interface works the way you would expect/want it to.

It is definitely 1.0. Can’t wait for 1.1 both to fix small issues and to see what features it brings along!

I heard rogers is supposed to carry it, but there have been issues in the negotiations.

Ten Tips for iPhone Competitors

The iPhone’s out!In no specific order, here are ten tips for competitors:

  1. Reaffirm your position. In the best-case scenario, this requires you to provide evidence or facts that your business is great. RIM provided a text-book example by boasting better-than-anticipated profits, a stock split and a new product offering the day before the iPhone was released. Nice work. Excellent timing.
  2. Ride the marketing tsunami. You have the market’s ear, so it’s an excellent opportunity to be heard. Take advantage of it. Again, RIM’s day-before triple play provides an excellent illustration.
  3. Flaunt the imperfection. Apple likes to make a big splash. And although the iPhone will offer a lot on day one, it doesn’t have it all. This presents an excellent opportunity to showcase the iPhone gaps addressed by your offering. For example, Helio will tell you that the iPhone doesn’t provide a chat functionality whereas their Ocean does.
  4. Be open. In many ways, Apple’s offerings are more proprietary than Microsoft’s. From anti-trust suits to informal banter, Microsoft gets beaten up on this on a daily basis. Despite a number of objections relating to the highly closed nature of the iPod, Apple gets off relatively easy. This may be an angle to exploit, but it’ll take some work. And Apple may have just made this a more difficult angle to exploit. How? They’ve made it clear that AJAX-enabled Safari is their platform for third-party iPhone developers. Based on JavaScript and XML, AJAX is about as open as it gets.
  5. Engage in coopetition. In some cases, it makes sense to juxtapose cooperation and competition. This results in coopetition, and examples of it abound. Although I wouldn’t expect Apple to be too receptive to a competitor’s advances at this time, it may still be possible to engage in a little gorilla coopetition. For example, iPhone competitors like RIM could offer feature/functionality enhancements to their desktop offering for Apple Mac OS X computers.
  6. Partner. Relative to Apple, RIM is small fry. (Forgive the hyperbole, I’m trying to make a point!) Through partnerships, however, RIM could reduce to topple the size imbalance. For example, a RIM-Google partnership could be interesting. With many of Google’s offerings already available natively for the BlackBerry, there’s an established starting point.
  7. Wire continuous improvement into your DNA. In other words, avoid the big splash. As captured by a recent item in Information Week, this is the Google way:

    Google Apps, which includes Google Docs & Spreadsheets, Gmail, Google Talk, Google Calendar, and Google Start Page, received several other improvements Monday. This is in keeping with Google’s strategy of incremental product improvements, said Chandra, who noted that Google Apps had seen some 30 new features and updates in the four months since it was introduced.

    The Google way works, in part, because the Internet, Web, etc., have been wired into Google’s DNA from the outset. So, although the continuous improvement sentiment has wide applicability, adaptation is likely required to ensure effective execution. In some ways, Dell’s just-in-time approach to inventory offers an analogous potential for continuous improvement in the production of computer hardware.

  8. Leverage the marketing tsunami. Arguably, the iPhone introduction is taking Apple into new markets with a new product. apple_markets_products001.pngOf course, Apple has to some extent limited their exposure by making the iPhone a convergence play – Phone + iPod + Internet. This means they have both product and market experience they can readily tap. iPhone competitors can also leverage the tsunami from established products and markets to new ones. Perhaps more importantly, the presence of the tsunami that Apple has established means that others can progress systematically from an established situation to a new one. apple_markets_products002.pngFor example, a competitor could progress from an established product and market to a new market with the same product. Alternatively, the trajectory could be from an established situation to a new product for an established market. Such lower risk entrays have been primed by the iPhone tsunami, and iPhone competitors can progress towards new products for new markets incrementally.
  9. Balance awareness with distraction. This one is tough! You need to be aware of the iPhone, and all that that embodies, while at the same time not be distracted from your focus. By staying close to your customers, while being sensitive to the broader market that the iPhone and other products will drive, you will have the best prospects for ensuring success. In terms of something a little more concrete … Listen. If customers complain the your desktop software needs improvement, or that it takes too many clicks to navigate with your Web browser, listen. Listen and then address these issues as opportunities, one by one.
  10. Leverage your community. In the case of Apple, the community is so polarized that it’s been described as religion in the past. Although I haven’t studied it in a lot of detail, the Apple community appears to be a consequence of the cool and innovative way that Apple allows you to “Think different”. Engage with your community. Even though there are so many ways to do this, I don’t see enough vendors doing this.

Agree? Disagree? More tips? Please chime in.

 

My Next-Gen Mobile Platform: A Plain Old Cell Phone Plus Jott Plus flipMail?

In April, I stated that my next-gen mobile platform could just be a Plain Old Cell Phone (POCP) with Jott’s solution for “Mobile Note Taking and Hands-Free Messaging”.

In so suggesting, I thumbed my nose at the BlackBerry (my existing mobile platform) and the highly anticipated iPhone.

I’m not down on the BlackBerry or the iPhone, I’m just impressed by the Lowest Common Denominator (LCD) effect of the POCP when combined with Jott. (Please see the Aside below for more on this LCD effect.)

Even though it’s only been a few months, my next-gen mobile platform has just improved significantly – and I haven’t lifted a finger or spent a $!

Enter flipMail from TeleFlip:

The Teleflip beta story At Teleflip, we love creating exciting and innovative services for our customers. Three years ago we introduced our original service that allowed you to send an email to a cell phone as a text message. That service is now called flipOut. Since we first introduced the service, millions of flipOuts have been sent.

We’re very excited to launch our new service called flipMail beta. flipMail allows you to get your email on your cell phone for free.* No new software, no downloads, no new phone necessary. It’s that simple. Because we’re in beta, we invite you to share your ideas, suggestions, and feedback about how we can make this new service even better.

* SMS charges may apply – this, of course, depends on your plan.

This means I have email on my POCP. It could even be a Jott-generated email!

Because this is an SMS-based offering on the POCP, SMS-based limitations do apply:

What is a fliplette?A fliplette is a text version of your email that we flip to your phone. fliplettes are limited to 120 characters each. When an email is longer than 120 characters, you receive a series of fliplettes.

On my BlackBerry, I have the native BlackBerry email client. In my case, this client is integrated with The University’s enterprise messaging platform (IBM LotusNotes). I also have a native client for GMail on my BlackBerry.

So, even on my BlackBerry, I can see the value in making use of flipMail for email services that are not available natively for the BlackBerry.

Aside on the LCD Effect

Nicholas Negroponte’s USD 100 laptop is an excellent example of an attempt to raise the bar of the LCD in developing countries.

Whereas this laptop is intended to “… revolutionize how we educate the world’s children …”, the POCP plus Jott and flipMail embraces and extends the connectivity possibilities for those that already have cell phones:

The international implications for the service are even more impactful, as Teleflip solves a significant issue by providing e-mail access to millions of cell phone users in emerging e-mail-developing countries. As many as 70 percent of the world’s current 2.5+ billion mobile phone users do not have access to the Internet or e-mail. By establishing a flipMail account through Teleflip, this large population will now have instant access to send and receive worldwide e-mails on their regular cell phones, and again, without any new software downloads, special mobile Internet plans, or any new hardware or devices. So their existing cell phone number will be their onramp to the worldwide e-mail network.

While such a platform could have an impact in developing nations, where cell-phone usage often eclipses land-line usage, the POCP++ platform may have a broader global impact.

And although the USD 100 laptop has WiFi (including wireless mesh) capabilities, it may also benefit from cellular-based connectivity. Such a possibility could be enabled by, for example, adding a Bluetooth capability to the laptop’s already impressive array of technical specifications. In other words, with Bluetooth on both the laptop and cell phone, there exists an alternate vehicle for minimizing the connectivity gap.

Negroponte’s vision for the USD 100 laptop is compelling.

POCP++ could be a part of it – or some other humanitarian effort.