Without question the BES (BlackBerry Enterprise Server) is what differentiates this unit from similar competing devices. Produced by RIM (Research In Motion – creators of the BlackBerry), BES is an extra layer of software that exists between email systems and the hand-held mobile device. Software critical for it’s operation, but that the user never sees or has to touche. So critical for executing key functions, that every BlackBerry device has a BlackBerry PIN (unique id), which is used to identify the device with RIM’s BlackBerry Enterprise Server.
The BES / BlackBerry relationship is direct and absolute, that is what allows the following two highly favored features (sometimes considered mandatory) to exist for business professionals and government users.
PUSH e-mail – The special RIM server software stands ready to automatically and immediately send (Push) every new arriving message to the mobile device. This differs from email systems using typical Polling or manually triggered Synchronization methods. BlackBerry storage also enables the mobile user to access all data offline in areas without wireless service. As soon as the user connects again, the BES sends the latest data. Techniques using the more classic polling and/or synchronization techniques can introduce a delay in receipt of messages – depending on the user and criticalness of the message, this can be very unacceptable.
Encryption – Because the BlackBerry systems mandates this “absolute relationship” between a server application (BES) and the mobile device it is able to encrypt data that travels between them. This improves security and message privacy in the case where a message may be intercepted or copied for malicious intent.
While many subtle differences also exist the third and possibly most significant for its popularity is the device’s user interface. A QWERTY keyboard and Trackball combination make this one of the most “PC like” devices. QWERTY is a shorthand way of referring to the standard PC keyboard – meaning this mobile device has a full set of input keys laid out in the same fashion as a standard PC. This was a huge accomplishment by RIM, it eliminated the giant headache of forcing mobile phone users to type sensible English using only 9 keys to create the 24 letters of the alphabet (layout of the standard phone dial-pad).
The trackball is effectively a miniature stationary mouse. Today virtually every computer user alive knows how to navigate a screen using a mouse style device. Thus this “Smart” mobile computer device, even though much smaller, has leveraged key knowledge we already had for operating a computer.
Another success of the BlackBerry is it helped bring Texting to the mobile mainstream business user and baby-boomer generation. Traditionally, texting was associated only with teens and the youngsters of our day, as we watched them furiously type out messages on tiny 10 key dial-pads of their cell phones. There was no way many adults would ever re-train themselves to type on tiny cell phone dial-pads.
However, texting has many more positive unseen attributes (beyond silently sending messages to friends behind the school teacher’s back!) that have gained the attention of business. I will discuss the merits of texting that attracts adult users in a follow-up blog.