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Finally a Device That Delivers

From the Editor-in-Chief

I want a wireless handheld device that works with me and doesn't make me jump through hoops just because I want to use Java. I don't even want to know Java is running; I just want it to do its job and make my life easier.

I've been through a variety of phones and PDAs, and each one had major irritations. If it wasn't the poor performance it would be the clunky interface. Then there would be the balance of what the device wanted to be when it grew up: was it a PDA with a phone, or was it a phone with fancy features?

The closest device to date was the Sony P800. I blogged my whole experience with the beast and felt it fell far short of the marketing hype that accompanied it. I was beginning to lose hope that Java could deliver its promise on mobile devices.

Some good news to report: I believe I've found the ultimate Java device, and it's so good I'm devoting this entire editorial to it. The device is the BlackBerry 7xxx series.

I love it. It has everything you need from a handheld. Large color screen, long battery life, very light, always-on connectivity, and the killer feature: a small QWERTY keyboard that is easily used with your thumbs. The software bundled with it is strong and useful. The device has been well thought out from both a hardware and software point of view.

Screen quality can't be underestimated in these devices. It's the first thing that will sap the battery life away, and due care must be given to getting it just right. The screen is large and very clear and comes with a backlight facility that pops on should the light fade on you. The clarity makes using this device a joy.

There are so many features on the BlackBerry 7xxx that I could go on for pages. For example, a really nice touch is that it charges through the same USB cable you sync with. One less power cube to carry around.

If it's so great, why isn't everyone using it? Good question, and one I have been giving a lot of thought to. I think the blame lies primarily with RIM, the licensors of BlackBerry's wireless e-mail technology and, secondarily, with the wireless operators.

To know about the device you would first have to know someone or see someone using it. Assuming you know of it and head over to their Web site (www.blackberry.com), you could still be forgiven for being in the dark. This is one of the greatest Java devices ever, but you won't know that after you visit their site. RIM is not very good at marketing this device.

RIM is even poor at dealing with the press. I have repeatedly asked for information and interviews, and I'm still waiting. Why are they hiding?

This device, with its large screen and integrated keyboard, is crying out for Java developers to be let loose with it. This device will make you want to return to your IDE after dinner and start letting your creative juices flow. Devices like these could really secure Java's role in the mobile arena.

RIM is not the only one to blame. The wireless telcos aren't making it easy. I had to jump through hoops to get mine connected here in the UK, and even after that I'm being charged a fortune for data going in and out. Compare this to the "all-you-can-eat" data plans in the U.S. It shouldn't be this hard (or costly) surely?

Competition is hot on BlackBerry's heels. Palm, for example, has a very nice device with their Tungsten W model. Aimed at the same "always-on" market as the BlackBerry, it will be interesting to see how well they gain market- and mindshare. Their press folks have already contacted me, and they're doing a lot to convince Java developers to come to their device.

The future for these Java devices is looking rosy - if the manufacturer can get its act together and create the groundswell of development to allow the community to build the rich array of software it requires.

More Stories By Alan Williamson

Alan Williamson is widely recognized as an early expert on Cloud Computing, he is Co-Founder of aw2.0 Ltd, a software company specializing in deploying software solutions within Cloud networks. Alan is a Sun Java Champion and creator of OpenBlueDragon (an open source Java CFML runtime engine). With many books, articles and speaking engagements under his belt, Alan likes to talk passionately about what can be done TODAY and not get caught up in the marketing hype of TOMORROW. Follow his blog, http://alan.blog-city.com/ or e-mail him at cloud(at)alanwilliamson.org.

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Most Recent Comments
Alan Williamson 11/25/03 04:54:01 AM EST

oh dear that does sadden me. I was hoping that the development support was much better than their PR efforts.

Ken Lo 11/24/03 10:17:24 PM EST

I have experience of developing a J2ME project on the Blackberry device before. It was very interesting task at the beginning, it really took me back to the IDE after dinner everynight. However, I gave it up because I was feeling tired to deal with its buggy IDE and nearly none of support, no matter from RIM or from any message board. I think if RIM can do their jobs better, the BB device may be a real good product for Java program.

Thomas Eichberger 11/05/03 02:01:05 AM EST

I think the Sony Clie UX50 fulfills your requirements, too.

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