As I head out to NBTA (i.e., the 2009 National Business Travel Association International Convention & Exposition) in San Diego...
... I have to admit I can't make it to California without my BlackBerry.
I'm embarrassed to confess to it, but number me among the countless CrackBerry addicts dotting the landscape of business travel.
BlackBerry to me means synchronizing with the world through pithy emails. It does not mean spending time on the World Wide Web.
Why? The BlackBerry is profoundly useful for one thing only (apart from making phone calls), and that is tapping out messages which enable me to stay ahead of the curve. That's because being out of touch is not so much a matter of feeling you are missing something. It's actually very much a matter of not letting the work stack up in your virtual Inbox.
Let me explain. Since most work is collaborative, once I lose the thread of my team's online conversation, I have a real challenge catching up to what was said by whom. I can't just read my most recent email upon arriving at my hotel room and expect to pick up where I left off. That's because email assumes you have absorbed the previous chain of messages and have ascended the email ladder to the current plateau, arm in arm with the rest of the people on the chain. Miss one email, however, and you can miss a very important step in that progression.
What BlackBerry doesn't do so well is give you a handy way to browse the Internet. First of all, BlackBerry isn't optimized for it - sites have to be coded to run well on the BlackBerry platform. This is a major difference from the less-business-friendly iPhone, which has a wonderful browser that gives you essentially the page views you see on your laptop.
Second, BlackBerry loads Web pages agonizingly slowly.
Third, BlackBerry browsing is tough on the eyes (i.e., difficult to read). Pages that are built for mobile browsing are somewhat better, but still no walk in the park. Frankly, using my BlackBerry to access the Internet is a court of last resort. If I really need to spend time browsing the Web, I prefer to haul out my laptop and hook up my air card or find a hotspot.
I guess it's no surprise that a new study of the mobile Web found that the browsing experience echoed how primitive things were on your PC about 15 years ago. In a word, it's miserable. The worst thing about it is how difficult simple tasks are.
I'll be the first to admit that surfing the Net is a far more pleasant experience on an iPhone than on a BlackBerry. But the iPhone is not the business enterprise choice. Not yet at least. BlackBerry is still out in front.
Still, many businesses are giving the iPhone a second look - primarily because Web access is so important. Sure, browsing on the iPhone isn't as easy as browsing on a PC. But in an iPhone vs. BlackBerry match-up, it's no contest. If you don't also travel with a laptop, your browsing eyes will gaze longingly at those in the coffee shop who have an iPhone.
I've always thought I'd never find another smartphone when it came to connecting for business. But if you're a seeker when it comes to mobile tech, you've got to be platform-agnostic. The iPhone is generating a lot of buzz among road warriors. Who knows? Mobile tech addicts might have a new true love sooner than a lot of industry watchers think.
I'll discover at NBTA what's the hottest mobile platform - the rejuvenated BlackBerry or the newest iPhone variant. So long till then!
Road Warrior • Miami • www.us.amadeus.com