Shortly before having to turn my attention to personal business (after arriving in NYC today), I grabbed a cup of coffee with Sean Mills of Bite Public Relations (pictured left). He does PR for the Opteron folks at AMD and we talked a bit about performance-per-watt benchmarking which is going to be a big theme going into 2007 as both server manufacturers and chip vendors look to prove that their servers (and the chips in them) are "greener" than the next guy's. But that's another blog for another day.
Now that I'm here doing the product thang in the Testbed blog, I'm going to start featuring the people I know and meet and their "Dead-Finger" technology. That's the technology that they (or you) can't do without in their everyday lives. You know... that one technology that I can't take from you unless I pry it from your dead fingers? Dead-Finger Tech is all about how our opinions may differ. Just because I say a technology stinks or is great doesn't mean you'll see it the same way. So, in many ways, Dead Finger Tech (or DFT) is going to be about how other people don't always agree with me. I'm starting DFT now because I want to have a compendium of DFTs compiled by the end of 2007 at which point we'll figure out some sort of DFT Awards. Maybe if you win, you'll get The Finger. Ha ha.
Anyway, while Sean and I were having coffee, he pulled out his Blackberry Pearl and I asked him what he thought of it. Personally, I hate the things. First, I still can't deal with the "merged" keyboard on the candy-bar styled Blackberries. The folks at Research in Motion who make the Blackberry routinely tell me that it just takes some getting used to. But I've spoken to some people who feel as though they have to check the display to make sure that what they meant to type is what's actually appearing and that with the dedicated-key QWERTY keyboard on other Blackberry models (also found on Treos, the Motorola Q, and the new Samsung BlackJack), they feel more confident and never have to look up.
The Pearl has also dispensed with its predecssors' most endearing feature -- the thumbwheel and back/escape button-combo on the edge of the device. Instead, cursor control and menu selection is managed with a rocker button that's placed at bottom dead-center (right under the display and the button immediately to its right is the back button). So much do I love that original dynamic duo of industrial design that it was the feature I was most looking forward to when I first laid my hands on Motorola's Q (the first Windows Mobile-based smartphone to use the one-two combination). Why don't have I have a BlackBerry then (if I love it so much)? Well, it's the perfect victim of the Digital Rights Management conundrum. Not that I support DRM. I'd rather not have it. But with most content out there being under (or eventually being under) one of three protection schemes (Apple's Fairplay, Microsoft's PlaysForSure, and Microsoft's Zune), the Blackberry is one of those devices that supports none (and I want my smartphone to be my moble content player too).
So, you can imagine my surprise when Sean said:
This is the best smartphone I've ever owned. And I've owned a lot of smartphones dating back to that big Kyocera one (the flip phone with the buttons on the outside that ran the Palm OS). I don't know what I'd do without it.
For the record, neither Sean nor Bite PR do public relations for RIM. RIM's outside PR counsel is Brodeur. So, that was quite a ringing endorsement for the Pearl (one that you'd never hear from me). That said, RIM did not escape completely unscathed during this trip.
While in Penn Station (with the Motorola Q in my mouth of all places) and getting ready to trek across the city, a finely-dressed Bostonian named Bret approached me and said "What do you think of the Q?" I explained a lot of the pros and the cons after which he whipped out his BlackBerry (not the Pearl) and started rattling off a series of disappointments, one of which was how ungraceful it is with attachments (not the Q's strength either as it lacks Pocket Word and Pocket Excel). As Bret finished discussing his disappointments, he said, "Man, if only those Blackberry people would give their customers a chance to tell them what sorts of improvements need to be made....you know... give them a BlackBerry for life or something and get all that feedback. It'd be worth it." So, to the co-CEOs of RIM Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie, if you're looking for some customer feedback, Bret from Boston is ready to talk.
Do you want to be featured in Dead Finger Tech? Send me a picture of you with (or without) your technology and tell me why it'd have to be pried from your dead fingers before you'd be willing to give it up. Write to me at david DOT berlind AT cnet.com.