Monday, November 22, 2004

The Blackberry, a portable phone that also receives e-mails, is taking over the lives of many American executives and not always for the better.

Some executives have become so hooked that it is now known by some as the “crackberry.”

Donald Caron, a senior vice president for Smith Barney Citigroup, has not turned off his Blackberry for more than a year. Bethany Ingwalson, a lawyer for the Internal Revenue Service, dumped a boyfriend who became addicted to his machine.

Research In Motion, the Canadian firm that launched the Blackberry in 1999, announced last week that it has 2 million subscribers around the world. The figure had doubled in the past 10 months.

For Mr. Caron, an investment specialist, the Blackberry has become an indispensable part of his life.

“It’s almost become an art form, how you can still be part of a meeting and have your Blackberry on vibrate, get a note and type back a one-sentence response.”

Mr. Caron said his wife thinks it is more intrusive than he does, but the executive thinks it avoids future problems.

“In the service business, if you get an e-mail at 10 o’clock at night, it happens to be because it’s when it’s convenient for them, and it’s usually a quick note,” he said. “If you are playing golf, sometimes you’d prefer to turn the thing off and not know about it to completely get away. I keep it on.”

The last time he did not have it activated was when he went skiing.

Miss Ingwalson said the obsession of her former boyfriend, Bill, for the Blackberry was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Her boyfriend, she said, was “completely neurotic” about the machine, even disappearing to a restaurant bathroom to check his e-mails.

“At the airport in Washington on our way to Mexico and he was stuck on it. Then connecting in Miami, he was on his Blackberry again, frantically writing e-mails because he was afraid he would not have coverage in Mexico.

“I might as well have been by myself. … We were dating, and we stopped dating as soon as we got back from that trip. It’s just so disrespectful for other people. I flipped out.”

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