1999 Product of the Year: Mobile Computing

Research In Motion Ltd. BlackBerry

IN TODAY'S hectic business world, instant access to information can make or break a deal. Businesspeople on the go must have an easy-to-use wireless solution for retrieving important e-mail messages and other data, such as proprietary business information and news headlines. To this end, the ultimate mobile computing tool of 1999 is the tiny Research in Motion BlackBerry. This unique handheld device is ideal for those who need constant access to their e-mail.

Add the BlackBerry Enterprise Server, and companies can deploy the units with minimum hassle for end-users. The BlackBerry uses existing e-mail addresses, offers unlimited use of the wireless connection (for a low monthly fee), and includes e-mail notification. These time-and money-saving features make it an easy choice over 3Com's Palm VII for corporate customers.

The BlackBerry comes ready to run: Each unit is registered with the user's information when purchased, and all you have to do is install the desktop software, which relies on Microsoft Outlook and Exchange for sending and receiving messages. The handheld also does a fine job when Outlook is configured to use Post Office Protocol or Internet Message Access Protocol mail.

The BlackBerry ships with a desktop manager program, used to configure the personal information manager synchronization and e-mail redirection settings, and BlackBerry Redirector, which wirelessly sends and receives e-mail messages to and from the unit.

The BlackBerry has a small built-in keyboard. By typing with both thumbs, users can compose e-mail messages much easier than with the Palm VII's Graffiti handwriting-recognition software. This makes the BlackBerry much more practical for sending e-mail messages of any significant length.

The BlackBerry wins hands down when it comes to easy and timely access to e-mail messages. It provides a lightweight, always-on solution at a low cost, appropriate even for users with the fewest technical skills.

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