Telus/RIM Lauch BlackBerry 8830

Yesterday, I attended an early morning launch of the BlackBerry 8830. You could argue this is Telus's answer to the iPhone, but only in a small way. It's an exclusive deal with Telus for the Canadian market, and it's dubbed the "World Edition" smartphone. This event was jointly produced by Telus and RIM, and the message was pretty clear: if you do a lot of international business travelling, this is your must-have device. I don't fall into this category, but the room was packed, and I know this corporate lifestyle is the norm for a lot of people these days. If you're in this camp, the benefits are pretty clear, and I can see why this should be a big hit for Telus and RIM. Aside from lots of new and cool features, it becomes your world phone that works just about anywhere. Another step forward in the quest to be always on/anywhere/anytime...

In short, here are some of the neat features of this device....

- Multiple band coverage - CDMA/EV DO for North America, and CDMA/GSM for international use. They also took the time to remind us that Telus has the best, fastest wireless network in Canada, so when you do your Web browsing, you'll be getting a better experience than with Rogers or Bell.

- Built-in GPS - they had a pretty good demo of a voice-activated navigation system, giving you turn-by-turn directions while you're driving. I don't quite agree with their take that this is a better solution than the map in your glove box, but sure, when you have a rental car and you're in the boonies trying to get to a meeting, no doubt, this is a great thing to have.

- Trackball for navigation - whoa - no more thumbwheel! Am sure that's big news for anyone with CrackThumb disease. Also, being situated in the middle of the device, it's dexterity-agnostic. How's that for an awkward term? So, lefties will be happy now - they can use it just as easily as righties.

- Full QWERTY keyboard - just to be sure you don't think the Pearl is the ultimate RIM device. Power users gotta have this.

- Enhanced media player. A while back, Jim Balsillie stressed that the BlackBerry was successful because it focused on mobile data only - it didn't have any distractions to water down the performance. Times have changed, of course, and the multipurpose device is the norm. So, the 8830 touts its enhanced media player UI, including video, photos, MP3 for music and even ringtones. It's not a camera, but it plays all these things, so it's certainly got the look and feel of a smartphone.

- MicroSD slot with 4 Gig of memory. Definitely a business class feature, as the idea is to make this your mobile work station. Aside from watching movies, the idea is to be able to view large files, and work on things like spreadsheets and read pdfs.

- 33% more battery life - makes sense given what I just said

- Government-grade security features. They emphasized that if RIM's network support for the 8830 is good enough for both the U.S. and Canadian goverments, it will be secure enough for just about any business environment.

- Business continuity. They stressed this a number of times, and that's definitely a benefit of having a mobile device that allows you to stay productive under just about any set of conditions. It was very nice to see Wallace Wireless featured as a Telus solutions partner at this event. I just did a podcast with their President last week.

All told, a pretty good launch and they sure got a good turnout. I wasn't crazy about the early start, but it's good to get these things done before the day gets too hectic. That's the easy answer, but I think the real answer for the early start ties into the overall theme in addressing the target market for the 8830. I don't know if this was by design, but people who travel a lot are used to getting up at ungodly hours to catch early flights. So, an early start here is just a reminder of how much easier business travel will be for them with the 8830.

Thinking along those lines, I now understand why the event was staged the way it was. The venue was called the "Departure Lounge", and was held in an upscale nightclub downtown. It was way too early in the morning to be going to a club for anything, so that took a bit of getting used to. When you called in earlier to RSVP for this event, you were calling into a "Reservation Center". And when you got to the venue, you were greeted and guided by models dressed up as flight attendents. Are you getting the picture now? I didn't clue into this until seeing the models, but I get it.

Ok, so they're treating the whole event as a simulated air travel experience, which heavy business travellers would be very familiar with. I don't know if this sunk in with the attendees - maybe the marketing was a tad too clever and subtle - or maybe not. Anyhow, somebody spent a lot of time and money putting this together, and I don't know if people are awake enough at this time of the day to get the clues. I hope so....

Here are some photos, courtesy of my Nokia N93.




A lot of circles and curves at this event - is there a pattern here?





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