[Update: on February 11, 2008, service failed for approximately 12-million Blackberry users worldwide, blamed on a server failure at the company's headquarters in Canada. It was the second major service failure in the last year.]
Living in the Washington, D.C., area, it seems as if everyone has a Blackberry. People are addicted to them and check their Blackberrys compulsively for messages — while walking down the street, during lunch, during meetings, in the Metro … everywhere. Every which way you turn, you see people holding the wireless device, heads bowed in which has been nicknamed, “the Blackberry prayer.”
I was having a business luncheon meeting with a woman who worked at Nextel to discuss a project, and she kept checking her Blackberry every minute or so. She kept it in her purse beside her, and so, she would reach over to her purse, remove her Blackberry and check messages … all while continuing to talk with me. Finally, I asked her, out of curiosity, what she was doing. She replied that she was on Match.com and just checking to see if anyone had responded to her profile. Clearly, I knew where I stood in that luncheon meeting! (Incidentally, Nextel didn’t sell the Blackberry at the time so obviously she was using some other cell phone service.)
Now, Apple’s much-touted iPhone is on the scene, competing with Blackberry, and the choice of which one to use is more difficult to make, no doubt, than the Nextel marketing lady trying to figure out which Match.com guy might be a real big-shot and have a ton of money, making him attractive to pursue.
I think I’ve got the iPhone-Blackberry thing figured out … I have both – an iPhone for personal communication and a Blackberry for work. It’s not by choice but necessity, and the reason gets into a curious dynamic about where the whole computer scene is headed. You may know what I’m talking about – that “Mac versus PC” thing.
Blackberrys are designed primarily for Windows PCs … iPhones – created by Apple – will work with either Windows PCs or Mac computers. Therein is a rub – many diehard Windows PC people look upon anything Apple as … sort of the anti-Christ of the tech world. I’m not kidding … the suspicion by a few people of Apple products is akin to some form of … well, emotional extremism.
At work, I simply have no other choice but to use a Blackberry for wireless email because someone bought into the myth that Blackberry technology is more secure than iPhone. That’s not, in fact, true, and it’s being confirmed by the switch by U.S. government agencies, such as Homeland Security and the FBI, from Blackberry to iPhone. Let me explain:
Even though your company may believe that Blackberrys are the most secure, all emails sent to and from your Blackberry are routed through third-party servers in Canada and elsewhere outside the United States that are owned by Research In Motion, the parent company of Blackberry. I’m not suggesting there’s anything wrong with that except that it debunks the myth about enhanced security. It’s sort of like your bank informing you that they are out-sourcing management of your checking account to someone in Berzerkistan.
iPhones, on the other hand, do not rely on third party servers and have all of the security features of Blackberry for email. iPhones sync with your computer – PC or Mac – to provide updated calendars, contacts, photos, iTunes and many other handy communications features. The telephone component of an iPhone is like no other mobile phone I’ve seen and allows you to put calls on hold to pick up an incoming call or direct it to voicemail or conference. You can also surf the Web, just like on your computer. The iPhone is actually a computer in the palm of your hand. Okay, my friends tell me I sound like a walking Apple commercial so I’ll stop it.
A silly notion swirls around the iPhone — driven, I believe, by computer hackers and Apple’s competitors — as to why the iPhone is not open or unlocked so it can be used on any cell phone service other than ATT Wireless. I don’t really understand this because … what’s wrong with ATT? ATT is unquestionably a heck of a lot better than Nextel/Sprint, the former company I used that had customer service in some far-off, yet-to-be-named country where English is a fourth language.
The bottom-line is that whether Blackberry or iPhone, these sophisticated wireless devices are very cool. If you are a baby boomer like me who often travels with a laptop, it’s only going to be a matter of time until we decide it’s handier and certainly lighter just to use an iPhone or Blackberry to access email, the Web and as a mobile phone.
As for me … well, after years of using PCs and putting up with spyware, viruses, “missing .dll” files and all that crap, I gave away everything PC and am totally Mac … and, you know what?! Everything works, and I’m more productive. It was one of my smartest decisions, including investing in an iPhone.