I'm getting a...BlackBerry?

BlackBerry. One big anachronism. Except, apparently, for me. Sigh.
Written by Christopher Dawson, Contributor on

I didn't know people still bought those anymore.

It's kind of a long story and it's not worth going into details, but suffice to say, one of my clients needs to be able to get a hold of me quickly, easily, and regularly. Obviously, I have a Droid and can connect to any mail server under the sun, but this client's IT policies are not quite as laissez-faire as your average SMB. Meaning that if I need push email, I'm getting it through one of their corporate CrackBerries and not one of those hippie Droids (I'm paraphrasing their IT, folks, of course, who are remarkably nice, if a bit, well, corporate). I need push email from their Exchange servers, so it looks like I'll be carrying around a couple of phones for a while.

I used to have a BlackBerry and for a long time, I loved it. It did precisely what I needed it to. Emails and text messages were nothing for my blurred thumbs that knew the nubby little keys like old friends. Then I realized that there was more to a mobile life than email and my CrackBerry lost its appeal. I kicked the habit cold turkey, embraced Android and never looked back.

And now I have another BlackBerry arriving today. It's a Bold, so obviously it's an upgrade over then ancient Curve I recycled when I left my last job, but it's about as bold as a classy pair of khakis. I gave one a spin this weekend at a Verizon store, curious if the latest Bold might be interesting enough to remind me why I loved my old Curve. It only reminded me why I traded it in for a Droid. And why even corporate users are trading in their BlackBerries for iPhones.

Next: Torch? Bold? Curve? It doesn't matter. It's still a BlackBerry. »

RIM released their BlackBerry Torch last week on AT&T and, while it has received favorable reviews, it isn't exactly inciting Droid X or iPhone 4 passion. Updated WebKit browser? Check. Touchscreen? Check. Call quality? Well, it's on At&T, so that's all relative. But when it comes down to it, what would you rather have? Any incarnation of BlackBerry, whether Bold, Torch, Curve, Storm, Pearl, or some other corporate marketing-inspired moniker, or the latest Droid or iPhone? If you said the BlackBerry, how old are you, exactly?

The BlackBerry is a corporate anachronism to which businesses still cling after making big investments in BlackBerry Enterprise Server, itself an anachronism of the first degree. Here's how RIM describes it on their website:

Designed to meet the needs of enterprise and government, BlackBerry® Enterprise Server is for organizations that have an on-premise email server and require a high level of IT control.

On-premise? Even Microsoft is scaling up its hosted email offerings and designing Exchange to leverage on-premise and cloud-based services. Obviously, heavily regulated industries require serious security, but RIM has shown that it's more than happy to hand over user data when potentially lucrative markets are in jeopardy. Besides email security is only as good as the users who access, send, forward, and deal with the email.

iOS and Android both work flawlessly with any POP or IMAP mail services and handle Exchange mail without batting an eye. So do the BlackBerry operating systems (both BB 5 and 6 are now in the wild). Mail functionality isn't the issue. The issues range from sex appeal to the massive convergence of functionality in iOS and Android smartphones.

It's not as if I have any doubt that the BlackBerry arriving on a little FedEx truck this afternoon (we only get little FedEx trucks out here in the sticks, searching for a bizarre address in a tiny New England town, hoping that some character from a Stephen King novel won't abduct them before they can deliver the latest gadget to some Dawson guy) will do precisely what I need it to. Of course it will. And the battery life will rock to boot.

So why do I use a Droid? And why are all but the most dyed-in-the-wool corporate types forgoing their BlackBerries when, arguably, BlackBerries are great messaging machines? Because they may do precisely what corporate IT needs them to, but they only do a little of what the people who have to live by their phones 24/7 want them to.

I actually like this gig with the BlackBerry-wielding client and I'm hoping it will turn into something long term. We're doing good work that I like to think really means something and will have lasting impacts. But no matter how long I work for them, the BlackBerry will be a necessary evil to make sure that I'm appropriately connected to their communications infrastructure; my Droid will remain in my front pocket as the companion that keeps me connected to everything else.

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