What Is a BlackBerry
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5. Developers, Developers, Developers

The BlackBerry is a fully J2ME-compliant device, paving the way for the army of Java developers in the world to become BlackBerry developers. RIM encourages application developers by giving away a free, full IDE, along with device simulators for every handheld model. This gives developers access to a simulated environment for every aspect of the BlackBerry platform including email delivery and web access.

6. Games and Third-Party Apps

For those who still think of the BlackBerry as simply a souped-up pager, think again. A large and rapidly growing community of third-party developers is creating applications for the BlackBerry. Magmic is a handheld game development company that has created some excellent multiplayer games for the BlackBerry. Texas Hold'em King 2 and Medieval Kings Chess 2 are two truly innovative multiplayer games for the BlackBerry that showcase the device's surprising graphics and network capabilities.

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Figure 4. A game of Texas Hold 'Em 2 with a hand I'm getting ready to fold (left)
Figure 5. A game of Medieval Kings Chess 2 - on guard! (right)

The addition of Bluetooth and a GPS to some models has created a whole new range of possibilities for the device. Freedom Input makes a foldout keyboard for the BlackBerry that uses the Bluetooth interface to let you type wirelessly. ThinPrint makes a product called Content Beamer that lets you print from the BlackBerry to any Bluetooth-enabled printer.

The GPS that's integrated in to the Nextel BlackBerry 7520 has spawned some great location-based software for the device. TeleNav makes a product of the same name that will speak driving directions as you travel by car. The Caffeine Finder service locates the nearest coffee shop given your current coordinates as provided by the GPS (a non-GPS version is also available). Additionally, you can use Spot from Skylab Mobilesystems to turn your GPS BlackBerry into the ultimate geocaching device.

Quick Tips for New Users

  • Learn to use the shortcut keys and create AutoText entries for commonly typed phrases or even words you frequently misspell.

  • Use Alt-Esc to switch between applications. This is perfect for letting that slow web site load in the background.

  • You can send PIN-to-PIN messages directly to other BlackBerry users without the normal charge for SMS text messages. Go to Compose PIN from your messages list.

  • Set a security time-out and password to protect your data--you'll thank me one day.

  • Check your wireless provider's web site regularly for BlackBerry software upgrades. RIM releases updates fairly frequently and often sneaks in new features under the radar.

So, What Is a BlackBerry?

The BlackBerry is a PDA that combines a mobile phone with the absolute best wireless email experience on the market. Because it supports J2ME, you'll see the pace of innovation of third-party software for the BlackBerry continue to accelerate--and so will your productivity.

Dave Mabe is an accomplished and largely self-taught engineer and writer who strives to create a simple, elegant solution to a complex problem.

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