Sun CEO praises Google Maps on Blackberry Pearl as a near "religious experience"

How often do you see this? The CEO of one company (Sun's Jonathan Schwartz in this case), writing a review (albeit a short one) of how other companies products and services work (together).

How often do you see this? The CEO of one company (Sun's Jonathan Schwartz in this case), writing a review (albeit a short one) of how other companies products and services work (together). Wrote Schwartz of how Google Maps runs on his Blackberry Pearl:

Given the diversity (and temperament) of the customers we serve, I don't normally do product plugs. But having just used (not just installed - I said used) Google Maps on my new Blackberry Pearl mobile handset, I have only one thing to say.

The grace with which it works comes close to a religious experience. 

That Schwartz would refer to his experience as "a thing of beauty" (the title of this blog entry) shouldn't come as a complete suprise. For quite a long time now, Research in Motion's BlackBerries have been handheld Java machines and, according to a Google FAQ, Google is clearly taking advantage of whatever local processing power is available on the mobile devices it supports. According to the FAQ, Google Maps (mobile) works with:

  • Most Java-enabled (J2ME) mobile phones.
  • Palm devices with Palm OS 5 and above.
  • All color BlackBerry devices.
  • Windows Mobile devices with Windows Mobile 2003, 5.0 and above.

Yes "all color Blackberry devices" and J2ME mobile phones are listed separately. But, when I fact checked it with Google, I was told "It is J2ME, but we use a few BlackBerry specific API's (e.g. native networking services), but ultimately it is J2ME, and all Java." Would Jonathan have said something similar about the implementation of Google Maps on Windows Mobile? Maybe not. But then again, Schwartz is apparently not alone in his assessment.

Earlier this year, Dave Taylor blogged:

Google Maps is darn cool, but I can't help wonder about the GPS geolocation that is built in to the phone (all cellphones report their position to the network). If Google Maps could just tap into that then you could automatically have it show you where you are every time you launch the app. That'd be trés cool!!

As it turns out, Google Maps actually does exactly this, but only in a very limited configuration  that doesn't include the Blackberry. Responding to a post regarding the implementation of Google Maps on the Windows Mobile OS, one commenter wrote:

I've had it installed on my Blackberry Pearl for over a month now. It works great, and is much better than the BB Maps application that comes pre-installed. I probably use it 3-4 times a week for directions and finding locations of businesses. The movement is great with the trackball and speed is good over the Cingular EDGE network. Now I an definitely addicted to my crackberry :)

Programmer James Briggs sung similar praises of Google Maps on his handset, saying:

I’ve been playing with Google Maps Mobile (also known as Google Local on Mobile) on my Blackberry 8700g - and it’s outrageously good.

Addicting? Outrageously good? Close to a religious experience?

<sidebar>Maybe this is what Dave Winer meant when he said (of Microsoft) "When was the last time they created some software that made you think they liked software?" To be honest, I believe some of the people at Microsoft actually like software. Recently, I saw some new Microsoft software (under embargo, video coming soon) and the Microsofties that showed it to me were very passionate about what they were showing. But there's also a certain truth to what Dave is saying. Even if Google isn't changing people's lives with some of its software and services, you get the sense that they want to. Perhaps mastery of maps on the Blackberry is evidence of that. I used to get that feeling with the mobile team from Microsoft. Maybe its like conquests. Once the conquest is over, it's not as exciting anymore. With no legacy to look after (aka: when you can think out of the box), there are many more conquests. It's more fun.</sidebar>

Personally, I would have never thought such a religious experience on the Pearl to be possible. I can't stand the design (I prefer the full QWERTY thumbboard found on other BlackBerry models). But I've had people with no connection to RIM (like Sean Mills) tell me otherwise. That's the thing about religion.....