Just a Thought - Blackberry and Bluetooth


- March 8th, 2005

On a recent Monday morning, as I plodded, zombie-like, to the break room at work to get a cup of joe, I passed Elizabeth in the hallway.

Being the ever friendly guy that I am, I offered my traditional morning greeting, "mornin'."

"Good morning," Elizabeth chimed; she is a diminutive, perennially upbeat person who can extract a smile from even the most morose.

I wasn't feeling particularly blue at that moment, just without coffee, but I smiled anyway and nodded to her as she hurried by.

As she passed me, however, I noticed an odd looking 'thing' in and around her right ear. There are only a few things that will wake up my senses on a Monday morning. A good cup of coffee is one of them. Another is discovering a new gadget, which can kick my curiosity into overdrive, blanking out all other tasks or needs until my piqued interest has been satisfied.

Needless to say I forgot about the break room and the coffee waiting therein, and caught up with Elizabeth to inquire about the 'thing' in her ear.

"It's a Bluetooth headset," she told me as she turned to give me a better look.

Mentally, I said, "Oooooooooooo! Oh Wow! Neat-O!"

Vocally, I said, "Cool. Where's the phone?"

Elizabeth pulled a cell phone, somewhat large-ish by today's standard, from her belt clip and presented it to me; she knows I'm into gadgets and was more than willing to show off her latest toy.

"My hubby got it for me for Christmas. I haven't figured out all the features and functions yet, but it is cool to the power of 10."

As I took the phone to examine it, somewhere in the back of my mind I was worried that I would find the telltale glass or plastic lense of a built-in camera. Being one of my company's IT representatives, it would have been my unsavory duty to tell Elizabeth that her spiffy new phone was not permitted on company premises.

However, and much to my relief and surprise, I found no such lens. "What's this," I thought, "a phone with cool features like Bluetooth, but no built-in camera? How could this be?"

Most cell phones with any advanced features, such as Bluetooth and PDA functions, also have the seemingly ubiquitous built-in camera. It galls me to no end, being the gadget lover that I am, not to be able to own, say, a Bluetooth capable phone because no one sells one without a stupid camera.

I mean, cats on crackers! What's so hard about offering a full featured cell phone without the camera? Not everyone is scouting bowling allies for a chance shot of Little Richard complaining about his bowling shoes.

After taking a few deep breaths to calm myself down, I examined Elizabeth's phone more closely. I was once again surprised, this time to find that her phone was none other that the new, slim, and extremely slick Blackberry 7100t Business Phone.

Blackberry devices compete directly with Palm based cell phones, like well regarded Treo 600. The primary difference is that Blackberry devices are geared more towards communication, as oppose to the Treo's PDA-centric functionality. Blackberry devices have built-in keyboards -thumbboards actually - that allow you to more easily communicate via text messaging. They also sport marginally larger screens than the Palm devices, allowing you to more easily read text. The 7100 also has a host of PDA functions to boot.

The older Blackberry models are wide and somewhat bulky affairs, they feel great in your hand, but are cumbersome to carry. The 7100 models, on the other hand, more closely resembles a large cell phone in both size and shape, and so should be more easily carried on your belt or in your purse.

After perusing Elizabeth's phone I started thinking how extremely connected I would be if I owned a one of these to-die-for Blackberry phones.

I asked Elizabeth how she liked her 7100.

"Oh, it's neat! The phone and PDA features are useful, but I really like the Bluetooth headset; the wired headset I had just kept getting all tangled. But this," she pointed to the Jabra BT200 Bluetooth headset tucked around her ear, "is just plain great!"

Elizabeth and her husband, Jerry, are die hard Mac users; she even brings her PowerBook into work to use instead of the Dell unit the company provides. But when I asked her about syncing that Blackberry bad boy to her Mac she replied with a frown, "Well, for some reason, Bluetooth on the Blackberry won't talk to my PowerBook. You can still sync it, but you have to use a third party app call PocketMac, and you have to use a USB cable."

"Kind takes the shine off of Bluetooth and the Mac, huh?"

"Only a little," she replied. "Having to use a USB cable is a step backwards, but PocketMac is great software. I'm not sure where the problem is with Bluetooth syncing, but I'm sure someone will figure it out sooner or later."

Just then Elizabeth's Blackberry chimed. She touched a button on the Jabra headset and started talking. She stopped looked at me and mouthed, "It's Jerry, gotta go."

As she walked away, talking quietly to her husband, I couldn't help but feel a bit envious. Elizabeth was realizing the Bluetooth dream: true hands free and wireless communication. That's the way it should be.

But that Mac syncing problem annoyed me to no end. So, I made a call to PocketMac and talked Tim Goggin, Vice President of Sale and Marketing at PocketMac. I asked Tim about the syncing a Blackberry 7100t to the Mac and he confirmed that PocketMac currently requires a USB to do the syncing.

"But we're working on a solution to the Bluetooth problem, and we should have it ready by the first half of this year."

I think Mr. Goggin could hear me smiling.

"That's not all," Mr. Goggin said, "PocketMac has teamed with Blackberry to offer Mac users a special deal. You can get a Blackberry device and PocketMac together for one very nice price. We call the initiative 'PocketMac-Enabled'."

I took a look at the PocketMac-Enabled Web site, and sure enough, there were two Blackberry devices and an iPaq being offered, each bundled with the PocketMac Software, and each selling for a very good price. The Blackberry 7100, for instance, a model similar to the one Elizabeth was sporting, is going for a mere US$149; something that might get more than a few Mac user wondering about how they can work a Blackberry into their budgets. (The price does not include service activation.)

I can't wait to tell Elizabeth the news that Blackberry/Mac syncing via Bluetooth will soon be available. I also can't wait to get my hands on a Blackberry 7100 and a Jabra BT200 headset. I'm so excited I may not need a cup of coffee in the morning, but I'll get one anyway. That is unless someone else walks by with a cool gadget in tow.