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Commentary by Mike Barnett

RISMEDIA, Jan. 18, 2008-Have you reached euphoria with your wireless device? If not, maybe it’s time to reconsider your wireless pal or maybe even get to know it a little better.

Last month, I wrote about “which handheld device should I buy to best manage my e-mail when I am out of the office?” This month, we will discuss the different handheld devices that are available. However, as you can imagine, we really can’t discuss “all” the devices here in this article.

First, let’s discuss a few of the more popular “operating systems” that are available with products such as the Blackberry (RIM), Palm, and the devices that use the Microsoft-based operating systems.

We won’t be discussing all of the details of the actual devices themselves, but will be posting responses to the e-mail Heaven community on RealTalk.

During this past year, I have had the opportunity to use the Palm device (with both the Palm and Microsoft operating systems). I have also tried the Q (with the MS OS) and two Blackberry models (both using the RIM OS), one Blackberry that used the “wheel” and the other with the “track ball” for navigation. As a point of reference, my carrier is Verizon. However, for the most part, the devices have almost identical functionality and features regardless of the carrier.

For the most part, all of these models offer the same things including: contact management, calendar (appointments), to-dos, e-mail and Web browsing. In addition, they all offer applications that allow you to view and manipulate different types of files and documents.

What I find interesting is that for years, Palm told us that the operating system we want to use is Palm, and that the Palm OS is superior to the Microsoft OS. So what changed? Did the Microsoft OS get that much better overnight? My summation is that Palm wanted to sell a lot more hardware devices, and it wanted to compete with the devices that were using the MS OS. So they released the model with the Microsoft OS. Is it any better?

In some ways, yes, and in some ways, no.

Why yes? Because, the Microsoft products should look familiar to you (Outlook, Word, Excel), and the Microsoft OS should make it easier to synchronize with your computer and handheld device.

Why no? Because while the synchronization process might be a “little” easier, the problem is that (at least for me) with the volume of e-mail that I send and receive (700-900 messages per day) the device would crash sometimes during the downloads, which rendered the device totally useless and required a reboot to use any of the functions again. While the first two levels of tech support at Microsoft and Palm (and Verizon) were very nice and cordial, none of them could help me. And, in fact, they all denied that a problem existed. They decided to replace the device twice, no charge. What was the result? No changes, just a lot of rebooting.

Then I get a call from Verizon saying that they have a new upgraded unit running a newer, updated version of the Microsoft OS. They said it should fix the problem (that they said didn’t exist in the first place). I said I would try it. While it did reduce the number of crashes, they didn’t go away.

Last year, I also used two different Blackberry models: one with the wheel and one with the trackball. Both do all the same things as the other devices, but with their own proprietary software.

I like both devices, but personally prefer the one with the trackball. I find it easier to use and, more importantly, it will probably help to eliminate the occupational medical condition known as “Blackberry Thumb,” which can cause pain (not unlike Carpel Tunnel Syndrome).

Regardless of the device you use, I suggest you use the IMAP protocol for your e-mail so that you can share it with other devices and team members.

I am sure some of you must have questions about the devices briefly mentioned here. And if so, visit the e-mail Heaven community to review other questions and answers. Mike Barnett is CTO and vice president of technology for InternetCrusade.

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