BlackBerry Bold 9900 and why RIM is still #1


If you believe all of the media hype, RIM (Research in Motion, the company that makes BlackBerry) is about ready to shut its doors, its products are useless, and they have lost all of their market share. Nothing could be further from the truth.   BlackBerry somehow became the Microsoft of the smart phone world.  Everyone started to hate BlackBerry because they were at the top of the heap.  I’m not saying RIM hasn’t made mistakes, but like all global companies who grew very fast, sometimes the growing pains aren’t so easy to take.  But BlackBerry is getting itself back on track and is poised to retake the industry in the number one spot.

First, some house-cleaning.  Worldwide there are still more BlackBerry subscribers than any other smart phone.  Sure, maybe in the US, BlackBerry fell out of favor for a while, but worldwide, a BlackBerry is still number one.  And the BlackBerry does things that no other smart phone can do.  Three of the five top downloaded smart phone applications across all platforms are BlackBerry Apps.  They are BlackBerry Messenger, Twitter for BlackBerry, and FaceBook for BlackBerry.  I believe the number one downloaded app was “Angry Birds” – go figure.  Overall, worldwide the top cell phones are not BlackBerry, iPhone, or Android.  The top sellers are non-smart-phones, meaning regular old mobile phones, by Samsung, LG, and Motorola.  Consider that most people in the world can’t afford to purchase, let alone keep up with the monthly service charges on, a smart phone.

Now to the BlackBerry Bold 9900.  This is AT&T/T-Mobile’s version.  Each carrier  (like Verizon, T-Mobile, and other global companies like Vodafone-UK, Rogers-Canada) have or will have their own model with its own unique features.  Even the AT&T and T-Mobile 9900 versions are not the same.

As the mobile communications coordinator for my company, I have had the opportunity to work on many BlackBerry models including the 8800, 8820, 8310, 8320, 9000, 9700, 9800, 9810, and now the 9900.  I have also been exposed to iPhones of all types, and Android phones.

The BlackBerry Bold 9900 is the finest piece of smart phone hardware I have ever laid my hands on.  I LOVE it.  The full keyboard in a phenomenal achievement and never have I been able to glide and fly over that keyboard to type out an email or text like I can on the Bold 9900.  The phone is solid, the battery life is good, the screen images are crisp and clear; there isn’t anything I don’t like about the Bold 9900.

Here is why I like BlackBerry in general:

  1.  You don’t need to connect the phone to your computer to download and/or install applications. With the iPhone, you do, and that need to do so, is a pain in the ass.
  2. RIM/BlackBerry provides a full desktop software interface that can manage a whole host of things. This includes wirelessly syncing your media to your device whenever you are in range of your computer. The software can also help me rebuild a broken BlackBerry that won’t boot up.  It’s quite amazing what you can do with the tools RIM provides.  And the more technical you are, the more you can do on your own and not have to call someone and wait on hold.  Try to manage your Android with their desktop software – oops, there isn’t such a thing.
  3. Attachments – BlackBerrys handle them with ease.  It doesn’t matter if it’s an Excel, Word, PowerPoint or PDF, you can save it and view it later.  You can also edit it.  Try to do that with an iPhone.  If you don’t forever save the email that contained the attachment, you’ll never see it again.
  4. BlackBerry Messenger – think of it as the way Instant Messaging or Text Messaging should be.  Between BlackBerry users, there is no limit on the number of characters you can type into a BBM message, and you don’t need a special text messaging plan to use it.  It’s free if you are a BlackBerry subscriber.
  5. The BlackBerry Network – You probably heard something in the news back in October 2011 about how BlackBerry services crashed in Europe and eventually affected North America for a time.  It was bad.  But the truth is, there is an entire network of BlackBerry servers and services around the globe, all inter-connected, allowing for BlackBerry users to do the things they do, like BBM to people all over the world at no additional cost.  Everyone with a smart phone needs a data plan, but you don’t need a separate Text Messaging plan if you are messaging other people with BlackBerry’s.  When RIM experienced the big outage, they responded to it by offering several application from its App World for free to its customers.  And they weren’t silly apps like themes or games (although they offered some of those for free as well) but rather some of them were Super Apps, like Vlingo.
  6. BESX – The original product is called BlackBerry Enterprise Server or BES.  BES is used by companies to link and manage all of their BlackBerry devices, push out custom applications to its users, and connect the users to data on servers within that company’s network.  BESX is a somewhat scaled down version FOR FREE.  Smaller companies or companies that don’t need EVERY SINGLE bell and whistle that BES offers, will do just fine with BESX.  Our company moved from BES to BESX and had absolutely no problem with functionality, in fact, just the opposite, we actually gained some functionality that was not yet included in the standard BES product.
  7. Self-Service – While I don’t expect every smart phone user to have access to an IT guy like me, for the people at my company, I am that guy.  And I can fix any problem myself, load any operating system on any device, control which apps are installed, and through IT Policies on the BES or BESX servers, I can control what my users can and can not do with their BlackBerry.  For example, let’s say I didn’t want them to be able to download apps from App World and be able to charge them to our company cell phone bill (this is an option available within BlackBerry App World – try THAT with an iPhone or Android).  I can prevent them from doing that.  OR, I can allow them to do it if the company want to do it as a perk.  Overall, I rarely have to call AT&T for any repair, functionality, or maintenance issues.  I can do it all myself.  The only time I really have to involve our mobile carrier is if a phone gets dropped and broken, and we have to file an insurance claim, or if a phone is so far beyond repair that I can’t fix it.  I haven’t had this last one happen yet.
  8. NFC – stands for Near Field Communications.  The best way to understand it is to think of a Mobil Speed Pass where you wave a key fob near the pump, and your purchase is automatically charged to the account you set up (credit card, debit card, Mobil gas card, etc).  This is just one function.  You will also be able to tap (or bump) your BlackBerry against another to share media like music, photos, and music.

When people try to put BlackBerry in a box, and say that the company is “dead in the water” they seem to forget that RIM is truly a global company.  There are places in Asia where 70% of the population use BlackBerry for personal use – not for business.  BlackBerry is the most respected smart phone world-wide.  I was recently in Boston for the weekend staying at a very large, upscale hotel.  I was surprised that most of the young people I saw walking around with smart phones had BlackBerry’s, not iPhones, not Androids, like the media would have you think.  iPhones and Androids may have great sales right now, but customer loyalty for those platforms isn’t there.  Many people are returning to BlackBerry once they got their taste of being “trendy” and keeping up with the Jones’s and it didn’t work out quite how they had hoped.  And luckily, RIM is ready for them.  In 2012 RIM will be releasing even more new models and the new QNX Operating System (which was supposed to be called BBX but RIM got sued over the use of that name – it will probably be called simply BlackBerry X or something like that).   The new OS will bring the BlackBerry smart phone (and tablet) closer to a fully functioning computer in your hand.

So folks, don’t count out BlackBerry just yet.  Many predicted that when Microsoft Vista came out, it was the end of Microsoft.  There was a mass exodus to Mac….until Windows 7 showed up.  RIM is in the midst of readjusting, refocusing, scaling down, and paring out the dead wood in the company.  They got fat and happy, and then realized it was time to get to the gym.  Now they are well on their way to being sexy, and desirable, all over again.

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Intermedia Exchange Hosting – a vendor review


If you are interested in a review of Intermedia, a Microsoft Exchange email hosting service (www.intermedia.net) please continue.

I originally wrote the following review in March of 2009 but waited until now to publish it because I wanted to make sure that what I wrote did not just come off like an angry, bitter person giving a review.  After careful consideration and several re-writes, I don’t believe this review is vindictive.  It is quite simply, a true story.

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After about a year of service, and innumerable “incidents”, our small business made up of 14 people had decided to dump the ridiculousness that is Intermedia and find a company who is truly reputable when it comes to Exchange Server and Blackberry Server Hosting.  In the last week (note: again I wrote this in March 2009), Intermedia has denied any culpability in getting an email server that belongs to them, blacklisted by many ISPs (Internet Service Providers).  This blacklisting prevented our outgoing emails from reaching their destinations because they were coming from a blacklisted server.  Intermedia could not prevent spoofing emails from reaching our Inboxes, and then could not figure out why our Vice President’s email was being delivered to the Junk Email folder of our President.

Of course, this situation was escalated to the highest authority and subject matter experts at Intermedia.  And in typical Intermedia fashion, each and every problem ticket that was opened was first handled by providing the wrong information, followed by just plain bad information, then an escalation to a technician of even higher authority, then the burden of fixing the problem was thrown back at the customer (us), then escalated again, and finally someone who claims to be the head of something calls me and wants to ensure that our relationship stabilizes going forward.  This modus operandi began and has continued since the first days of our conversion to Intermedia in May of 2008.

I had a conference call today with Steve Acheveria and Bill Savage (the grand poobahs of customer service operations at Intermedia- otherwise known as the two men with huge ego’s and small d…s).  They didn’t like my complaints and threatened to drop me as a customer IF I DIDN’T CHANGE MY ATTITUDE.  I thought I was on a conference call with Sonny Corleone.

I enlisted the help of a user forum for Exchange and Blackberry users.  I had to find a replacement Email Hosting provider since our relationship with Intermedia was irreparable.  What I didn’t realize (but found out in the course of my research) was that Intermedia is well known in the industry for their poor customer service.  Where were these opinions a year ago when I was researching Intermedia?  Could it be that at one time Intermedia was a top notch organization and that just in the past year they have become a  black hole of technical support.  I don’t know for sure.  What I do know is that any company representative who threatens you probably isn’t working hard to make sure you are a happy customer.

Now here’s the real kicker.  Intermedia only allows 2 people from our company to be a “contact”.  They say that based on the size of our company, only 2 contacts are “allowed”.  Have you ever heard of such a policy when dealing with tech support because I haven’t?  There are three “categories” of contacts that you can have as an Intermedia customer:  an account contact/owner, a billing contact, and a technical contact.  Three contact types exist in their business model but we’re only allowed 2 contacts based on the size of our company.  Can you see how the math isn’t working already?

Mysteriously, Intermedia sent me a form to complete regarding these contacts and this happened prior to me understanding their tech support model.  According to the form I was supposed to fill in who the different contacts were.  At the time I thought that there could be 2 Account Contacts for each contact type  (i.e. two Owner Contacts, 2 Billing Contacts, and 2 Technical contacts).  I filled it out, copied in all the people in my company who were selected to be on the list, and I forwarded the form Intermedia.  I never received a call or email from Intermedia stating that I had misunderstood the form, and that I needed to correct my contact submission.  The people in my office recall getting their copy via email, just as much as I remember sending it.  But now, nobody can find a copy.  It’s not in anybody’s inbox, sent items, junk mail, outbox, trash, nowhere.  Six people, all of whom have their email account at Intermedia, can not locate this email that I sent with the contact form attached.  This is an honest to goodness true story.  One of my co-workers was going bonkers trying to find it because she knew she received it from me (since she was on the list as a technical contact) and filed it in her email Inbox.  It has mysteriously disappeared form each person’s mail account including my own.  I don’t want to accuse Intermedia of breaking into our mailboxes but I don’t know what else to think.

Additionally, the President of our company was not receiving email from the Vice President of our company.  This strangeness began shortly after the Vice President’s email address was being spoofed and therefore email coming from the Vice President to the President looked authentic but was actually advertisements for watches, and jewelry.  After I called in a problem ticket, and after about 5 days of hearing nothing about it, this problem was mysteriously fixed – supposedly by making some Spoofing Avoidance changes to our DNS servers.  However, after the “fix” all of the Vice President’s email to the President made it to the President’s, but ended up in the JUNK mail folder – so the President never read it.  For four days Intermedia couldn’t figure out this new problem.  All of a sudden, after I brow beat them, and I admit it I was tough on them out of pure frustration, the problem was solved.  Intermedia “found” an email rule (something we don’t use here – we didn’t know what they were or how to deploy them) on the President’s email account that said, and I’m paraphrasing:  “send all email from the Vice President to Junk Mail”.  AND Intermedia claimed  that someone at our company had to have made that change on the President’s email account.  As I said we don’t even know how to create an email rule, let alone deploy it.  And only the President and I (from our company) had access to the settings on his email account.  Intermedia, of course, has access to all of our mail accounts.

The problems I mention here are just the straws that broke the camel’s back.  Intermedia and its minions like Steve Achevaria and Bill Savage will stand behind what they have said and done, they stand behind the mistakes of their employees and never admit wrong-doing, and they do it all with a “holier-than-thou”  attitude to boot.  This M.O repeated itself time and time and time again over the year or so that we were a client of Intermedia.

Now to “Fax by Email”.  An interesting service in Intermedia’s lineup.  Of course it cost extra but one could send or receive faxes right from the desktop.  This is not new technology but it was new to us.  We signed up for it.  It was only after we signed up for it that we were told Intermedia had no Maine area codes available (there’s only one – 207).  It’s not that they didn’t have any Maine fax numbers left; they just never planned on having a Maine customer so did not get any fax number with a Maine area code.  And they didn’t plan to add any Maine phone numbers. We had to pick a fax number in MASSACHUSETTS.  How do you think that looks on your business cards or letterhead?   We tried it for a while.  Over 50% of the faxes we tried to send never made it to their destination.  Once again, this is another example of the first class service available at Intermedia.  And after numerous inquiries from customers as to why we had a Massachusetts fax number, we pulled the plug.

So for those of you out there looking for an Exchange Hosting provider, skip Intermedia.  I have reported them to Microsoft as I thought Microsoft would want to know the truth about one of their “Certified Partners” (whatever the hell that means).   In my Internet travels I see a lot of vendors with the “Microsoft Certified Partner” emblem on their web site.  I wonder if that has any real meaning whatsoever.   

I promised myself that I would calm down for a while before writing an opinion piece about Intermedia. I had to concentrate on switching Email providers as quickly as possible instead of getting myself all worked up over Intermedia.

During the time we were an Intermedia customer, all 14 of us received tons and tons of junk mail.  I don’t know how they supposedly filtered junk mail from getting to our account but if spoofing our email accounts was pretty easy then what should I have expected concerning excessive junk mail.  I don’t remember who it was that said it, but a wise person once said “If junk email makes it into your email account and is simply put in a separate folder marked “junk mail” then it is not filtering junk mail, it is just redirecting it.  Makes perfect sense to me.  Our new provider uses a third party product called Postini that monitors incoming mail and flags it as junk BEFORE it ever reaches our email accounts.

Our new email hosting/Blackberry Hosting provider is ExchangeMyMail.com.  It’s been 4 months now and while there have been minor bumps along the road, the management team at EMM still operates under the adage that the customer is always right.  Management takes its job of retaining customers very seriously.  They are a top notch organization and very reasonable on their pricing.  In fact, we spend less now than we did while with Intermedia (who literally nickel and dimed us to death).  One quick example:  As the account owner, I have access to our account’s control panel.  If I wanted to personalize the control panel by putting our logo on it (a page that is only seen by me), they will charge your $50, a month.

In conclusion, if you don’t mind getting tons of Junk Mail, and never knowing if your mail account is working correctly, or whether or not your Blackberry device is receiving all of its email, and if you don’t care that your Fax Area Code doesn’t match your location, and if you don’t mind spending several hours on the phone over several days for a problem that should be fixed within the first 5 minutes that you call, and if you don’t mind getting threatened by the Managers for not respecting their staff, and if you don’t mind not being respected by the management and staff, and if you don’t mind the President of your company standing in your office with a scowl on his face, I say, “Go for it, Intermedia is for you”.

I’m kidding of course. Don’t waste your time or money on this company.  ExchangeMyMail (http://www.exchangemymail.com) was our choice and rated hightly by several forums of which I am a member.  In the end, EMM has worked well for us.  But this is just my opinion and you need to do your own research.   But at least I can offer some real life experience in dealing with Intermedia.  I think this type of review is exactly the kind of review I wished i had found when I was looking for an Exchange Hosting Provider instead of the cookie cutter, “everyone’s wonderful” reviews you get from many online sources.

“Google Apps” review – a huge disappointment


I recently assisted an engineering firm attempting to convert their email/calendar/contact, etc to a new Google based solution for small businesses and enterprises called Google Apps.  When a company offers an “enterprise” solution, this usually means it is a well-tested, broad-based, seamless solution that offers workflows and intuitive design to improve the way your company currently does business.

Google offers three different packages, one is free called the standard package.  Then there is the Small Business and Enterprise solutions.  Each cost the same per use and the only difference between them is the different types of tools available depending on how large your organization is.  They are the exact same set of tools, cost the same, but for some reason Google as separated them out into two separate solutions.  The Small Business and Enterprise solutions include what is supposed to be 24/7 support via toll free number or online help.After trying to figure out how to migrate this organization to Google Apps using the multitude of online help pages that go on forever and each link opens up another help page in yet another browser windows, it was quite frustrating. 

It is not until we paid the Small Business fee of $50 per user per year, that we received the toll free number for support.  So I closed the 372 windows that were open on my desktop and I called the 800 number.  Now in voice mail hell, the endless telephone prompts defy you to find a key that will actually allow you to talk to somebody live.  In fact the only way I could do this was to select the “critical failure” function which they warn you, means that a function that previously worked, no longer works and is affecting more than one half of your users.  Well, if I haven’t figured out how to get a function to work, how could anything qualify as critical.  Absolutely ridiculous.

So I pressed the key anyway and actually did talk to a person.  Three separate times.  Only to find out that the wording of what they provide, their seamless integration, their well-tested, broad-based solution, wasn’t going to work for me.  In fact, after thinking about it, I don’t know how these Small Business Enterprise solutions provided by Google Apps could ever actually be a viable business solution for any business, unless you were a fly by night pyramid scheme company who didn’t plan to be around very long anyway.  If that’s your business, then I highly recommend this product.

Luckily I was within my 30 day trail period so I cancelled the whole subscription.  In my quest to find a real solution for the company I was consulting for, I happen to stumble upon a review by PC Magazine for Google Apps.  The person who wrote this review must have been paid by Google or possible Google wrote the review themselves and passed it along to the reviewer because most of the text of the review was word for word quoted text from the multitude of marketing materials and help pages.  I can not see how if this reviewer actually used the product that he could have given this product a high review.

Now, I don’t hate Google, I like Google, and use them for my personal email, calendar, contacts, etc.  But a business solution…that is highly rated….I think not.  Don’t waste your time.  If you want specifics as to what this products doesn’t do, drop me a line, I’ll let you know.