- The Washington Times - Monday, April 2, 2007

Michael Lazaridis expresses great confidence in his company’s BlackBerry 8800 phone/personal digital assistant device — almost as much for what it won’t do as for what it will.

During the recent Federal Office Systems Expo at the D.C. Convention Center, Mr. Lazaridis, president and co-chief executive of Research in Motion, explained that the 8800 doesn’t have a built-in camera because in many corporations, enterprises and government agencies — think of the Defense Department — having a camera at hand isn’t always a good thing.

This device, available from Cingular Wireless for as little as $299 with a two-year service commitment, elevates hand-held communications to a new level.

I hate to say it, but I have to imagine that my trusty Treo smart phones, the Palm Inc. products I’ve loved for so long, may have finally met their match.

The 8800 is larger than the BlackBerry Pearl reviewed here a few weeks back. It has a full “Qwerty,” or typewriter-style, keyboard, a color display, and the BlackBerry e-mail system, along with support for up to 10 different e-mail accounts.

The unit has 64 megabytes of memory but can be augmented with “micro” SecureDigital or SD, cards of up to 1 gigabyte of RAM. The device is a quad-band GSM/GPRS and EDGE-enabled phone which, as with the Pearl, means it can operate in most of the world, and with high-speed data as well. And there’s a Bluetooth connectivity feature that lets you use wireless headsets and other devices.

This new phone also incorporates the TeleNav Track Global Positioning System service, which is promoted as “an affordable enterprise-grade application” including location tracking, mileage tracking, wireless time sheets, alerts and detailed location reporting to capture field data.

Cingular, in a statement, said a “premium” TeleNav Track product can also be had, offering “wireless forms, dispatching, bar code-scanning support and voice and on-screen turn-by-turn GPS directions.” The service costs an extra $13 or $22 per month, on top of phone and data charges.

In short, the BlackBerry 8800 can not only tell you that you have an appointment, it can tell you how to get there.

For most of us, I suspect, the key elements will be phone, e-mail, and Web browsing. In these areas, the BlackBerry 8800 is one of the most amazing devices I’ve come across. As a phone, it’s as good as any device out there.

There’s an included corded headset, if you don’t want to use Bluetooth, and the built-in speaker and microphone are excellent. Dialing is relatively easy, although I wish there were an onscreen dial pad with the traditional “ABC” arrangement found on phones.

Web browsing is easy, although the lack of Java capability renders some Web sites unreadable. Such would be a problem on other hand-held phones with Internet capabilities, so I won’t fault BlackBerry here.

The 8800’s e-mail approach is flat-out amazing: I entered my e-mail addresses and password and the BlackBerry device did the rest. No port settings, no fuss, no bother — it all worked, quickly and very well.

Getting and sending e-mail is a breeze.

Am I sold? Oh, yes. You might be, too. Details are at www.blackberry8800.com.

• Read Mark Kellner’s Tech Blog at www.washingtontimes.com/blogs.

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