Latest BlackBerry links up on the links

At the recent Professional Golfers' Association (PGA) golf tournament in Norton, Massachusetts, a wireless service automatically distributed data about each player's shots, within seconds of the official updates.

The service, though aimed at tournament staff and a select group of golf fanatics, served as a showpiece for Research in Motion Ltd.'s (RIM's) latest colour BlackBerry handheld, and the way RIM's always-on email features can move the latest corporate data to mobile users in the field. Demand for up to the second data may have been especially keen because one of the players was Tiger Woods.

The service was crafted by InterNoded Inc., a 10-year-old Massachusetts wireless managed service provider that this year refocused itself to specialize in BlackBerry-based services for the enterprise, according to Julie Palen, the company's founder and chief executive officer.

As a player finished each shot, tournament staff updated the PGA database, based on IBM Corp.'s Lotus iNotes on an IBM server. Typically, that data goes into the Leader Board, a display which shows the results at a central location and at every third hole on the golf course.

But from InterNoded's data center, the BlackBerry Enterprise application queried that same database, collected new data and processed it. Then, via AT&T Wireless' GSM/GPRS cellular net, the application continuously pushed each update out to 180 BlackBerry 7210 color handhelds.

The 7210, with RIM's popular thumb-powered QWERTY touchpad, is designed for voice and data applications. It has a 240x160 pixel display, supports over 65,000 colors and carries 16M bytes of RAM and 2M bytes of SRAM.

In Australia, the BlackBerry is sold exclusively through Telstra. According to Joseph Raheb, Telstra's wireless data account executive, the newest colour BlackBerry is the 7230, which is a tri band unit. He said Telstra charges its customers a AUD$95 flat fee for unlimited e-mail, attachment viewing, and Internet/intranet browsing. There is a separate fee for voice, he said.

Though RIM is enmeshed in filing, and responding to, lawsuits over its BlackBerry technology, the always-on e-mail service keeps finding new enterprise converts, Palen says. In InterNoded's first evaluation of the BlackBerry months ago for a customer, Blackberry "blew all the other devices away," she says.

The total cost of ownership was lower, users like having new data sent to them automatically, performance is fast due to RIM's compression technology, security is strong, and it's relatively cheap. Not along ago, Palen herself was using a Hewlett-Packard iPaq handheld and a cellular data service for e-mail. "My first month, the cell bill was US$150 for data," she recalls. "And it was very slow, painfully slow."

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