Is Research In Motion's new BlackBerry Storm just an Apple iPhone wannabe or is it an innovative, highly usable smart phone in its own right? The answer: Yes, on both counts.
The Storm is obviously a response by RIM and Verizon Wireless to the runaway success of Apple's iPhone, which is offered exclusively in the US by AT&T. Features such as a touch-screen-only interface and automatic switching between landscape and portrait modes are sure indicators of that. But the Storm also has some appealing advantages over the iPhone, such as the ability to read and edit Microsoft Office documents.
While Apple has taken steps to make its iPhone enterprise-friendly, RIM has far more experience in that regard. For example, the Storm's e-mail capabilities are basically the same as other current RIM smart phones. Besides connecting to personal e-mail accounts, Storm works out of the box with Microsoft Exchange, Lotus Domino, Novell GroupWise and, of course, BlackBerry Enterprise Server. And many IT folks are already familiar with BlackBerry's e-mail capabilities, making it easy to integrate the device into existing setups.
The Storm comes with two other significant advantages for enterprise users. The first is DataViz's Documents To Go, which enables you to view and edit Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents. A longtime staple on Palm smart phones such as the Treo, this application provides seamless access not only to Office documents uploaded from your desktop computer, but also to e-mail attachments. In addition, the BlackBerry Storm has support for cutting and pasting, a significant shortcoming with the iPhone.
Another big advantage for business users is Storm's ability to travel the world. True, it is currently available in the US only from Verizon, which uses CDMA technology, including EV-DO Rev A for 3G data access. CDMA technology is proven and reliable, but it is not used as much as GSM technology outside the US.
But the Storm also comes with a subscriber identity module (SIM) that enables it to work on GSM cellular networks worldwide. This makes the Storm a true world phone, a capability that is rarely built into other CDMA phones.
Another advantage for travelers is that, unlike the iPhone, the BlackBerry Storm has a removable -- and replaceable -- battery.
Given these capabilities, Storm is quite useful for document-centric mobile professionals and business users, especially those with business in other parts of the world.