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Testing out the new BlackBerry 8800

So when we were down at IPIC in Orlando last week, Anne Armstrong, the president of the 1105 Government Information Group, the parent company of FCW, was using her new BlackBerry 8800. It was amazing -- people were gathering around her and pushing and shoving to see it. It was like she was a rock star.

I have one too, but I have been on the road so much -- and, frankly cannot be without -- that I just decided to keep my old BlackBerry until our IT folks could get the new one plugged in. I'm now have the new one up and running, thank you very much. And I'll let you know what I think after I use it for a while.

My initial take is that it is nice and trim and sleek. I love the new track ball, although it takes some getting used to. The keyboard takes some getting used to, particularly if you are used to the bigger keyboard of the traditional BlackBerry.

The WSJ reviewed the 8800 a few weeks ago and they shared these views. Read their review here... or if that doesn't work, try this link.

Overall, the BlackBerry 8800 is a handsome device that looks good and functions well, as long as you rely on it for reading more and responding less. The keyboard has a steeper learning curve than the trackball -- a useful new addition that you'll learn quickly, forgetting the scroll wheel.

There is one program that I have found that I cannot be without on my BlackBerry, and that is Google's maps mobile edition. It can be found at mobile.google.com. They make it for other mobile devices, including cell phones. I have not tried those out ... and, in fact, they have a whole suite of Google mobile aps -- the Google search, Gmail, and Google News. The others are nice, but not as valuable as the Google Maps mobile version. From my BlackBerry, I can now look up addresses -- or businesses. (It's great -- look for a business and it will give you the address and phone number. That is super valuable in and of itself.) It can give you directions; even step-by-step directions ... And it even gives you traffic. And even satellite images.

Yes, I have GPS in my fancy Prius, but -- a case in point -- I had a lunch recently, but it was in an area that was too new for my GPS software.

This weekend, I was out and about in an area of Northern Virginia in an area I don't know that well, and I was looking for the nearest REI to where I was... and ta-da -- there it was.

Having just been out in Redmond visiting Microsoft, I know Microsoft's Virtual Earth does have a mobile edition. Here is a Microsoft blog post about it from back in 2005. I'll try and find a better link for you. I know that Microsoft didn't have a version that worked on the BlackBerry yet. I'm sure they have a delightful version for Windows CE. But it's interesting -- and I never thought I'd say this -- that Microsoft doesn't market some of its stuff very well. I'll go into this more later this week, but I am a big user of desktop search. Google and Yahoo have desktop search, of course. But what better way to search your desktop then with Microsoft Windows desktop search. Who knows the desktop better then Microsoft, right? But the company doesn't really market it ... and I don't get it.

An important caveat -- most organizations, particularly government agencies, have real questions about the security of desktop search, so before you download this stuff, ask around. And, in fact, I should check out Google's privacy policies for Google maps. Hopefully, it is better then their other privacy policies, which ... well, it have not been great.

As I say, more on this stuff later this week, I hope.

Posted by Christopher Dorobek on Mar 11, 2007 at 12:16 PM


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