Commentary

Might Blackberry Best iPhone?

The Federal Communications Commission last week gave the green light to a WiFi-enabled BlackBerry, a device parent company Research In Motion said will be making its debut by year end and now, with this go-ahead from the FCC, may be available as soon as the fall.

Details revealed on the FCC web site indicate that the WiFi BlackBerry looks like the current 8800 series. The BlackBerry 8830 CDMA/GSM phone is the newest iteration of that series and has been available to Verizon Wireless customers since May and will become available to Sprint customers this month. AT&T customers were the first to have access to the BlackBerry 8000 Curve, the smallest and lightest full QWERTY BlackBerry handset in the line, since May 31.

The phone was approved for the GSM/Edge 850/1900 bands, as well as for Bluetooth and WiFi a, b and g, making it the first BlackBerry to work on every available wireless platform. This flexibility also means it could work on either T-Mobile or AT&T's networks. T-Mobile was the first to offer the BlackBerry, and has been aggressive in rolling out WiFi devices, so likely will be the carrier to offer the WiFi BlackBerry first. Plus, AT&T has its hands full with the iPhone, a good and bad thing.

The iPhone, of course, has brought infinite publicity to AT&T and sold at least half a million units during its first few days of availability, but those who weren't buying it were heavy business users and corporate IT buyers, whose network e-mail systems are incompatible with the third-party email system (like Yahoo! or Hotmail) that AT&T supports.

More, corporate IT people have admonished scallywags who couldn't resist the iPhone's charms not to use it to access their business e-mail anyway via a third-party email system because there's no way to guarantee its security and integrity.

Then there's AT&T's EDGE network. That has been the source of endless complaints since before the iPhone was even in stores. And now that iPhone users are up and running, the complaints have doubled. It's sssslllloooowwww, consumers say. Plus, even though the iPhone is WiFi enabled, it doesn't elegantly shift between the broadband network and WiFi when WiFi becomes available, creating another cause for complaint for users.

A dedicated smart phone with dedicated WiFi may be the all-in-one device BlackBerry addicts (the CrackBerry set) have been waiting for and may just assuage the disappointment they've felt lately at not having been able to get in on the iPhone fun.

Plus, the BlackBerry's ability to seamlessly serve all the needs of the enterprise audience, as well as those needs of the home-and-office consumer, could easily usurp some of iPhone's predicted market share, especially as the charms wear off and users increasingly call the device a souped-up iPod.

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