So the keynote didn’t deliver what most people were counting on (read: anything exciting for the average consumer) but nonetheless there was still quite a bit of neat stuff to see. After the keynote, a few meetings with RIM VPs and Managers and a few cans of Diet Pepsi in the press room, we made our way out onto the Solutions Showcase floor to take a look at what the best and brightest third parties had to offer. Here’s a quick recap of some of the stuff that excites us the most.
RIM launched BES 5.0 yesterday and some pretty nice demo booths were set up to show it off. There are tons of new features in BES 5.0 that are sure to make those who eat, sleep and breath port 3101 squeal with delight. Seeing as the overwhelming majority of people who interact with BES on a daily basis are end-users, we’ll make like Stephen Colbert and get to the nut meat of it by listing the highlights that the average user can expect of BES 5.0:
- Organize email messages that require follow-up with the use of flags, as with Microsoft Outlook
- Easily access to network drives using the remote file explorer directly from BlackBerry smartphones
- Open and forward calendar appointments, including attachments
- Browse folders on the BlackBerry smartphone to view and attach files to email messages
- Use Calendar Meeting Delegation for IBM Lotus Domino, which allows attendees to delegate invitations to another person
- Simplify mailbox folder management by adding, renaming, deleting and moving folders as necessary
- Easily manage personal and public distribution lists
- Listen to WMA files while on the go with extended support for audio file types
As it currently stands, RIM is offering a free trial of BES 5.0 for 60 days which is valid for up to 20 end-users. Everyone else will just have to pony up the dough. And trust us, it’s oh so worth it.
Because we’re suckers for handsets, one of our first stops was with AT&T to take a peek at the Curve 8900 which it recently announced would finally become available. We weren’t able to squeeze a confirmed launch date out of the awesome reps at the booth, but after a bit of chat with a few people we still think the 8900 could go on sale as early as Memorial Day weekend in the region of $150 to $200. But then again, you know how things are and even the best laid plans are subject to change at a moments notice.
Google announced a new BlackBerry service which may to thrill many small and medium-sized business owners. Called Google Apps Connector for BES plug-in, the plug-in allows users’ Google Apps accounts to take advantage of many BES features such as wireless synchronization of email, contacts and calendar entries without the need for Exchange. As with all things in life, work arounds have their drawbacks and currently there are a few — most notably the lack of 2-way calendar synchronization. However, Google Apps Connector for BES is nothing to look down upon as it boasts a wide-range of features which lead us to believe that Google has something special on its hands if there really is a market filled with people who have BES but not Exchange:
- Push email
- Offline access
- Read/delete sync
- Folder/label sync
- Gmail features in built-in app
- Spam filter
- Star message
- 1-way wireless sync: Google Calender > BlackBerry
- View location details, attendee lists, acceptance status
- Support for recurring meetings
- Meeting notifications on device
- Access names, email address, and phone numbers via Global Address List (GAL)
- 2-way wireless sync
- Full support for all fields
Also, Google Apps Connector for BES is currently undergoing beta testing, but it should be available for free in both Premier and Education editions in July of this year with support for up to 250 users.
Quickplay is betting that its new PrimeTime2Go service is going to have mass appeal to TV addicts. While it doesn’t stream TV over cellular networks, users can download their favorite shows from NBC, ABC, CBS, Comedy Central, MTV, CW, Discovery, TLC, Nick, Bravo and a bunch more via Wi-Fi and store them on microSD cards for viewing at a later time. PrimeTime2Go is $8 per month and is available in App World.
Cellcrypt is here at WES with their end-to-end real time encrypted voice service. Working not only over Wi-Fi but 2G and 3G cellular networks as well, Cellcrypt provides its 256-bit, FIPS 140-2 standard approved encryption through its own servers, provided both clients have the app loaded on their respective devices. We tried it out and the voice quality was there, but there was a good two seconds of delay. However, Cellcrypt assured us that as it is now working with RIM on drastically improving this drawback before the service makes it to market. It’s definitely something that ultra security-conscience IT departments should take a look at.
Zenprise introduced Mobile Manager, a new plug-in for its Device Manager software and something we have to admit sketches us out. While it’s not the first service of it’s kind, it takes employee monitoring to the next level by spying on each and every single thing a device does. Hello, big brother. Wanna know what modules your employees has installed? Mobile Manager can do it. Wanna know how their battery is fairing? Mobile Manager can do it. Wanna know exactly where they are via GPS and see it on your screen with Google Maps integration? Mobile Manager can do it. Okay, we have to be fair and say that it’s a totally useful product in that it provides a boat load of information that others cannot — such as pinpoint trouble shooting that can be as specific as which cellphone tower caused your brief data outage and tracking down lost devices — but we can’t help but think this sort of power can and will be abused. Anyway, here are the three major points that reps went on about:
- Service Manager – Service Manager automatically monitors & troubleshoots mobile performance & availability problems that impact service to your end users.
- Best Practice Manager – Best Practice Manager analyzes various configurations to determine whether your configurations match vendor specifications and best practices.
- Capacity Manager – Capacity Manager profiles performance of users, applications (BES, Exchange, Active Directory, etc), and the operating system to help you understand capacity and plan for growth, or help with server consolidation.
Each and every time there is a tech convention, something that normally doesn’t warrant coverage ends up getting it anyway. This WES it’s gwabbit, a $9.95 per year app that scans emails for contact information, absorbs the information, sends it off to its server, processes each bit of information into the appropriate fields, shoots it back to your BlackBerry and asks you if you want to add that contact. It’s the sort of app that is perfect for those who drive 50-feet to 7-Eleven instead of walking.
Well, that covers our day 1 pretty well. Be sure to check back with us later as we bring you more coverage from WES 2009.
P.S. – AT&T, you might want to get a few cell towers on wheels here. We don’t take kindly to 3G crashing, then EDGE crashing and then even GPRS crashing leaving us with nothing but GSM. You’re officially on notice.