So I was using the REDFLY Windows Mobile Smartphone Companion a bit more with the HTC Advantage and a thought came to me that the REDFLY solves the problem I had with the Windows CE Handheld PCs of the old days. I was a big fan of the Handheld PCs, like the Jornada 680, because they gave me a large keyboard and display to write, surf, and be productive on the go with a long battery life. The major reason I stopped using the Handheld PC devices was that the operating system grew a bit stale since Microsoft stopped updating the OS and the browser would not let me visit the websites I needed to access. The REDFLY can be paired with the latest and greatest Windows Mobile devices and as long as Celio Corp continues to roll out drivers/utilities for the operating system I can use the REDFLY as a modern day Handheld PC that stays as up to date as the devices I connect it with.
In my first thoughts article I wrote about the outstanding hardware and after a couple of more days of use I have to say I am even more impressed. The keyboard is large enough that I can type on it very quickly with two hands just like I type on a full size keyboard, with very little compromise. I finally had a chance to pair and connect it via Bluetooth and am actually blown away at how responsive the device is over Bluetooth. I typed this entire article on the REDFLY and there was no noticeable lag even when I got up to full typing speed. The Bluetooth connection is drop dead simple too after initial pairing as you simply turn on your mobile device (make sure the Bluetooth radio is on too), press the big power button on the REDFLY, hit the F12/Bluetooth key on the REDFLY keyboard and then you are off and running. If you have setup multiple devices to connect to your REDFLY then you will select the one you are on from the list that appears after you press the F12/Bluetooth key. With a bit further testing I see no difference in performance when conneced via either Bluetooth or USB. It has been great using the REDFLY on the train with my Advantage or the test Tilt in my gear bag. I have primarily been using it for surfing, email, and writing.
I also wrote about my concerns over the price of the device. I had a chance to talk with the President and CEO of Celio Corp along with the VP of Marketing and asked about the intent of the device and targeted market. A couple of very valid points I took away from the conversation concerned the TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) and security. When you buy the REDFLY, there is virtually no additional costs for the life of the unit. There is no drive that may fail, operating system that may fail due to viruses, or other issues found with laptops and ultra portable computers. There are really no maintenance costs to upgrade the operating system, install software etc. So IT departments may love having something like this that is virtually worry free. I would like to find out a bit more about the battery though since it doesn't appear to be replaceable and if I use the REDFLY for years the battery may eventually need to be replaced.
You will not have to pay the tethering fees from your service provider or pay for a separate data service if you have a device like the HTC Shift. This is a nice cost savings for the road warrior.
Most of the people in my office have high end desktop computers to be able to draw models of ships and run complicated analysis software. A couple of years ago we purchased laptops for people to check out and take on the road with the primary purposes of giving presentations, managing email, and viewing attachments. These laptops have a cost at least double the REDFLY and a much higher total cost of ownership. The REDFLY can perform these functions, has a longer battery life, and is a more secure setup.
Another major concern for enterprise customers is security. If you lose a laptop or ultra portable device you may put your company at risk and cause some serious problems. If you lose the REDFLY, then it doesn't matter since there is no data or anything on the device. If you lose your Windows Mobile phone, then your company can simply wipe the device remotely and your data will be secured.
Another thing I like about the REDFLY is that you do not have to sync your Windows Mobile phone to it like you do with a PC. You can avoid the issues with synchronization (we know that ActiveSync is flawless though, right?) and duplication.
I still have a couple weeks to check out the REDFLY, but at this time I have to admit I am 90% sure I will be purchasing one for myself when they become available at the end of April. I am also betting a bit on the future of the REDFLY because I hope that S60, BlackBerry, and iPhone clients are released that let me use the REDFLY with all of my devices and turn it into THE essential accessory for all my gear.