Life After The BlackBerry

The BlackBerry came pretty close to becoming history recently. What if it fails again?

Is it possible for any handheld device to replace the BlackBerry when it comes to emails? Today mobiles are cameras. They’re pocket computers. They’re Internet devices. They’re music players. They’re fashion statements. They’re practically everything. But when you think of email, you still think of the BlackBerry. And not without reason; five million of these devices have been sold so far and an army of corporate executives swear by them.

So what makes it so special?

You can access your email on almost any smartphone. Then what’s so special about a BlackBerry which doesn’t sport a camera and not even a music player? Well, for one, it’s liked by corporates because it doesn’t have all of the above and is just a serious email device. Secondly, as handheld devices go, it’s great for thumbing in emails. Finally, it’s a ‘Push Email’ device. That means whenever you want to access your mail, you don’t have to connect to the Internet and then log in to your mailbox. The mails will come to your screen as and when they come to your mailbox, something like the way text messages come. That’s the biggest advantage. Setup is pretty easy too and can be done by a novice.

You can set alerts for important emails and set the others on silent mode. It can interface with your Outlook. Companies can make an Intranet with the BlackBerry network and there’s an option for the BlackBerry Instant Messenger, although it supports Yahoo and Google Talk.

Other berries in the field

The key to replace the BlackBerry would be to offer a push email with a small handy keyboard that’s easy for typing. Push email is being provided by a host of companies and it also depends on which device it is used it to know whether it will be a BlackBerry killer or not.

Good Technology: One of the biggest victories for GoodLink is getting its client onto the Palm Treo, which earlier had flirted with the BlackBerry service. GoodLink is becoming widespread and other handhelds to use it are the Sprint 6700, HP iPAQ, Cingular 8100 series and Motorola MPX220.

Visto: Visto tied up with TELUS to give a business inbox. This service is available on the UTStarcom Pocket PC 6700, Palm Treo 650 and the Audiovox PPC 6600. For the record, Visto has also filed a case against BlackBerry for copyright infringement.

Emoze: This will give your handheld device push email service for free. Sold by the makers as a service for someone who can’t afford a BlackBerry, all you have to do is download the software for free from the website  and install it on your mobile.

SEVEN: SEVEN has tied up with around 80 mobile service providers to give BlackBerry-type solutions. In India , it has tied up with Hutch and Idea. Incidentally, SEVEN filed a case against Visto, but lost. (

ChatterEmail: This works on the Palm Treo (appears to be the most popular choice for BlackBerry challengers). You have to give a one-time payment of $39.95, then the service is free. They’ve come out with a color-coded mailbox, among other innovative things.

Funambol: They’ve released an open-source email mobile platform based on the Open Mobile Alliance. The best part is that it works over existing software, so you can have two push email solutions on the same handheld.

Other players include Notify (, Space2go and Consilient (

The BlackBerry killer?

While there are many devices that support a number of push email clients, the Palm Treo appears to be the number one choice for most. The Treo had once supported the BlackBerry service, but now has a wide range of options including GoodLink, Visto, ChatterEmail and Notify.

Challenge from the giants

Nokia Intellisync Wireless Email has a good chance simply because Nokia has the largest share of mobile phones in the world. What’s more, it also works on Windows Mobile, Pocket PC, Palm and other Symbian devices.

As Microsoft is trying to get into everything in the market, it’s not far behind on the push email front too. The giant is planning such an initiative for its Windows Mobile platform, which is slowly catching up. Microsoft and HP have also got together to take on the BlackBerry.

BlackBerry service

RIM (Research in Motion) devices aren’t the only ones to have the BlackBerry service. Four models from Nokia (6810, 6820, 9300, 9500), the Sony Ericsson P910 and the Siemens SK65 have all featured the BlackBerry email client.

(This article appeared in the June 2006 issue of Living Digital magazine)