In 2006, when the parent company of Blackberry [Research in Motion] was embroiled in a patent infringement lawsuit, people were concerned.
The doomsayers / IT pundits warned that the world’s economy could collapse if all of these important people [like me, of course] could no longer receive email on their mobile Blackberry devices. Never one to think for itself, my idiotic company decided to yank out the Blackberry infrastructure.
They picked the trusty Palm devices, specifically the Palm Treo. I was sad to see my never-break-long-battery-life-no-hassles-blackberry go by the wayside. My infant son threw this phone across our hardwood floor more than once. Did my Blackberry complain? No and it never stopped working. Ever.
Trying to be open-minded, I gave the Palm a nod for a higher eye candy factor. I’ve always been a sucker for a pretty face.
One problem I did not expect is that the messaging team picked Goodlink to provide wireless data synchronization for Microsoft Exchange. Never mind that Palm could natively synchronize to MS Exchange, we bought into the ‘we need a higher level of security’ offered by Motorola’s Goodlink.
Apparently, we didn’t get the message that Motorola sucks at writing any software that is actually used by normal people. So, I suffered for two years with this hellish combination of Goodlink and Palm.
It’s not just that the Palm is really a shrunken computer [with it's ARM chipset], but it’s that the movement of data across the wireless card causes brutal interruptions in the touchscreen sensitivity. I have literally hung up on so many people and conference calls over the past 2 years that I lost count. I try to hit the touchscreen to mute the phone, it doesn’t respond and after a few more touches, the phone is rebooting.
Let me wax poetic about the beautiful Goodlink interface. Email on a small screen never looked so pretty and so slow. Between the ridiculous load times when Goodlink is ‘reading emails’ and ‘indexing headers’ and making me wait for 3 minutes, I could have written a book.
So, after I literally broke my Treo 650 in a fit of impatient rage, I got the ‘upgrade’ to the Treo 700. More memory, same crappy performance. The current state of this phone is for Goodlink to corrupt something, followed by total device lookup with a ‘assertion failure’, followed by my erasure of everything and a reinstall of Goodlink.
For an IT guy, this is is a state of hell. The worst part was that I had known mobile device bliss with my Blackberry.
This experience with Palm Treo has taught me a few things about mobile devices. First, no phone companies can write decent software. Most device makers surely do not use their own devices because generally they sport unusable user interfaces. Too many gee-whiz animations and not enough responsiveness. A phone should respond to all commands immediately.
The next thing I learned is that there are two kinds of devices: those that started as a phone and those that started as a handheld computer. I base this assertion on the fact that on the two handheld computers I have owned [Palm, Sharp Zaurus] were terrible phones. They were not immediately responsive to all commands. They plodded along, interrupt driven, like a typical Windoze program. These devices should be banned from the voice networks.
Those devices like Blackberry that grew up as a phone are nimble and responsive. They often have better battery life. They may have less swiss-army knife features touted by Palm, but they just work. It’s a phone that acts like a phone and has a bonus of getting email.
The best thing about Blackberry is that the layout of the menus and applications make sense. I never had to read the manual for either my old or new Blackberry. Yes, they are that intuitive. The Goodlink sofware sucked and the number of apps that come with the Palm was stupefying.
In one example of Palm software madness, I tried to load up MP3s onto my Palm so that I could have an iPod-like experience while I am whiling away time in an airport. Alas, synchronization to the Palm was a 4 hour trial using the attractive yet dysfunctional Windows Media Player.
After I finally loaded 1 GB of MP3s onto the expansion card, I went to plug in my iPod head phones. Guess what? The Palm audio jack was the mini size, not the standard headphone jack size. So, I had tunes and no freaking way to hear them.
I thought, maybe the brilliant guys at Palm would allow me to hear tunes through my bluetooth. Sounds reasonable, right? Too bad it doesn’t work.
This example is the fundamental problem of a ‘handheld’ computer / phone. It doesn’t do one thing well, like be a phone, it does a bunch of things half-assed. I think the iPhone may buck this trend, but I have not played enough with the one I gave my lovely wife uses. Also, as an independent contractor, she’s not tied to a byzantine corporate ‘messaging’ infrastructure based on MS Exchange.
So, gentle readers, one can understand my thrill when my Blackberry 8830 arrived on Friday.
I’m free at last. I’m free at last. Thank God Almighty, I’m free at last.