BlackBerry Storm Launched! It’s a Good’n

The new BlackBerry Storm is absolutely drool-worthy and the early hands-on previews have been overwhelmingly positive. I’m already lusting for this device, but we’ll have to see when it comes to Rogers (whenever a North American 3GSM version comes along I guess). On the other hand, I’ve had two people (who’ve had face time with the device) comment to me that the Storm’s not terribly impressive so I’m not sure what to think. Is it a true iPhone competitor or it is just another half-assed attempt to copy the touchscreen formula? I’m hoping for the former.

Taking Push Email and PIM Beyond the Enterprise

I’ve become quite enamored with the BlackBerry and its email and PIM functions. While Sybase won’t open up their email system to me (I don’t blame them, to be honest), I’ve been manually inputting meetings and schedules into my BlackBerry. The ability to get a reminder of a meeting or task deadline is invaluable in the fast-paced and busy work day.

So it got me thinking – why not extend the convenience and usefulness of schedule management and push email to the university? I know many students are just as busy, if not busier than full-time workers. I already get my university email pushed to my BlackBerry, but I’d like to connect my calendar up as well. Waterloo is the hometown of a leading-edge university (University of Waterloo) and a pioneer in the wireless email business, Research in Motion. What better place for a trail deployment of a university BES for students? Here’s what I’d like to see.

The university implements a BES that manages the existing email infrastructure. Furthermore, course calendars would be synchronized and professors and teaching assistants can add assignment due dates to these calendars directly.

Now I haven’t quite nailed down how the project would be run – whether all students would have access to it or if only a subset of them would – there is an existing program at the Minota Hagey residence that gives students smartphones, replacing their existing land-line phone and boosting wireless usage and personal management, so recruiting a subset of the population can definitely work. The program would be far simpler to implement for a smaller group, so for trial purposes, that is probably the best solution.

What are the benefits? Let’s look at it from all parties.

  1. The University of Waterloo – the university has been on the forefront of several initiatives, some good, some not so good. PDEng, the Velocity residence, and the co-op program itself are some leading edge programs that the university has undertaken. In order to maintain its image of being a school of innovation at the forefront of technology, a student email/calendar system would be one more step towards this goal.
  2. Research in Motion/Microsoft – I mentioned a BES for students because I use a BlackBerry, but in reality it could be Microsoft Exchange and Windows Mobile devices as well, or any other wireless email + PIM service. This builds a large student population that is familiar with the product and service, and if they’re like me and find it useful, will continue to be users down the road, upon graduating from university.
  3. Wireless carriers – Data service is more lucrative for wireless carriers and is one part of the market that they have all been targeting to offset declining voice revenues. Just imagine entire universities filled with BlackBerry/Windows Mobile toting students. The revenue growth would be significant, even if some sort of cheaper student plan is introduced for the market. Again, if these students find the service useful, they will continue to use it after graduation, adding a whole new revenue group for the wireless carriers.
  4. And finally the students – Although the above-mentioned parties all stand to gain from this program, the student benefit is the end goal of the program. After all, this is something I’m conjuring up – clearly it’s to my benefit. 🙂 A student’s life can be extremely busy at university. Assignment after assignment are due and examinations seem to pop up without warning. The ability to have calendars with these events pre-populated pushed to a wireless device that is with the user at all times allows reminders and constant contact.

Hopefully something like what I’ve written about here will help students get more organized, plan their free time more effectively, and allow them to do better at their academic and extracurricular activities. I know in the past month with the BlackBerry, I’ve become more organized and event reminders have helped me at least appear more intelligent and on the ball to co-workers. Well worth the investment in my opinion.

K790 Resuscitation and RIM Earnings

I finally got around to flashing my K790a today (I actually had to boot into Windows XP because Sony Ericsson doesn’t support Vista with their update service) and it seems to have solved most of the software issues I’ve been experiencing lately. Obviously the navigation stick problems are still there. I’ll probably end up having to send this phone in to Sony Ericsson anyways. Nevertheless, it’s nice to not have a brick…

The company right next door, Research in Motion reported absolutely spectacular earnings and forecast another blowout quarter coming up. First quarter earnings were up 73% over the prior year while revenues were up 77% year over year. Going forward, Research in Motion forecasts earnings of $1.37 – 1.49 per share for the upcoming quarter on $1.30 – 1.37 billion in revenues. That’s substantially higher than the analyst consensus of $1.12 per share and $1.11 billion respectively. They also announced a 3-for-1 stock split, effective August 20, 2007.

Research in Motion stock is up over 17% after hours at a penny less than $194USD. Wow.

RIM Acquires Ascendent

Fresh off its lawsuit with NTP, RIM’s on the buying end of a deal, picking up the private firm Ascendent. They make software that links cell phones with corporate phone systems. And judging by the number of BlackBerry systems in the corporate world, this is probably a pretty nice move. On the other hand, I think RIM needs to pick up VOIP. I mean, one of the big advantages of the BlackBerry over a regular cell phone is that you can send and receive data wirelessly a lot simpler. Since I’d already be paying oh $55-60 a month Canadian for unlimited data, I don’t especially feel like paying up another $50+ for a voice plan. I think they could attract a lot more customers if they integrated VOIP functionality into their phones. They had a prototype VOIP (and WLAN) enabled phone back in 2004, but as far as I know neither functionality has made it to a production phone.

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RIM and NTP Settle

Well, tonight was the big night for Research in Motion and NTP. A settlement was reached where RIM will pay NTP $612.5 million US to essentially go away. The settlement amount is actually quite a bit smaller than what was expected by many analysts, around $1 million US. Additionally, there is no need on RIM’s part to pay and royalties going forward, a bit boon to the company.

Settlement Reached in BlackBerry Dispute – AP

However hidden in all the excitement (RIM stock surged more than $13 or 18% after hours due to the somewhat favorable settlement) is some ominous news. First, RIM tacked on even less new subscribers than they previously estimated and earnings and revenue will be lower that predicted. They blame this on the ‘uncertainty’ created by the lawsuit and threatened injunction. It seems like the investors (for the most part) didn’t mind this extra news and are just happy that this is finally over.

Who knows, this lawsuit may have shaken the fundamentals of the company and product for some people. With Microsoft entering the market in a big way, this could only hurt RIM in the long run.

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