[FoRK] NYTimes.com Article: For BlackBerry Users, a New Way to Write

Stephen D. Williams sdw at lig.net
Thu Sep 9 11:44:00 PDT 2004

Existing phones have done pretty much the same algorithm for spelling 
words.  I now have a Motorola Timeport 280 that I picked up on eBay for 
Europe that has a method that matches the spelling/choice description.

I've had the original RIM 850, the Treo 300, and my current Treo 600.  
They all type pretty much the same.  The 600 is just slightly slower 
than the 300 or the 850, but is far more compact.

The 600 needs a service for email that works a bit more asynchronously.  
I use web->imap which works great, but it would be great to get pushes 
using something other than SMS.  The difference in cost is a fair issue, 
IF this phone is really a 4-band GSM phone with Blackberry without 
subsidy from T-Mobile.  If they don't have an unlocked version, then it 
isn't.  The 600 is as little as $350 after subsidy.  Bluetooth is nice, 
but it doesn't sound like the resolution is higher than the 600.

It will be interesting to see if they can beat Blazer, the Treo/Palm 
browser which already does HTML 4.0 with frames, Javascript, cookies, 
images, etc. and handles nearly any size web page.  You can even view 
Word, Excel, or PDF attachments with the right add-on software or 
download files to memory or mmc/sd cards.

I can't wait for the next couple year's devices like the new phone with 
a 1" 1.5GB harddrive.


khare at alumni.caltech.edu wrote:

>The article below from NYTimes.com 
>has been sent to you by khare at alumni.caltech.edu.
>OK, this may push me off the fence to buy one...!
>khare at alumni.caltech.edu
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>For BlackBerry Users, a New Way to Write
>September 9, 2004
>IN the annals of consumer electronics, certain devices have
>proven so compelling, they've created consumer cults. You
>know, Mac heads. Palm freaks. TiVoholics. 
>Among the white-collar crowd, though, one particular gizmo
>has earned a street nickname all its own: CrackBerry.
>That's a reference to the RIM BlackBerry, an addictive
>wireless palmtop that displays your e-mail in real time, as
>it arrives. The airports and commuter trains on both coasts
>are filled with BlackBerry fanatics, hunched over, eyes
>glazed, flailing at its microscopic alphabet keyboard with
>their thumbs callused in funny places. 
>But for all its popularity among executives and
>financial-industry types, the BlackBerry is practically
>unknown to everyone else. RIM hopes to change all that with
>the BlackBerry 7100t, which it unveiled yesterday. (The
>device, with phone service from T-Mobile, will go on sale
>next month.) 
>RIM believed that everyday consumers avoided the original
>BlackBerry for two reasons. First, the price was way too
>high: $500 for the BlackBerry, plus about $30 a month for
>Internet service on top of a voice plan. That one was easy
>to fix; the 7100t costs only $200, plus $60 a month for
>both unlimited Internet and 1,000 anytime phone minutes. 
>The second reason is that the BlackBerry's Thumbelina
>keyboard is nearly three inches wide. Recent BlackBerry
>models are also cellphones, and three inches is awfully
>wide for a phone. As you walk down the street, you feel as
>if you're talking into a frozen waffle. 
>The new 7100t is, therefore, much narrower (2.3 inches). In
>fact, it's nearly the same size and shape as a standard
>non-folding cellphone. 
>But what about the keyboard? A full set of alphabet keys
>wouldn't fit; for proof, RIM's designers had to look no
>farther than the popular Treo 600 (the BlackBerry's obvious
>rival). The Treo has a full alphabet keyboard - but even
>though the phone itself is wider (2.4 inches), its keys are
>the size of hydrogen atoms. 
>A standard 10-key phone keypad was out of the question,
>too; trying to compose e-mail on number-dialing keys is
>like trying to mow Yankee Stadium with fingernail scissors.
>So once again, RIM devised something nobody had ever tried
>before: a keyboard with 20 keys. 
>The payoff is obvious; compared with standard cellphone
>keys, these are positively gargantuan. There are only five
>keys on each row, so even the beefy of thumb will have no
>trouble hitting the right keys. Of course, now the
>screaming question is: how do you produce 26 letters and
>all the numbers when you have only 20 keys? 
>RIM's solution was to double up. Most of the keys have two
>letters painted on them; for example, the top four keys are
>labeled QW, ER, TY and OP. You just hammer away at the keys
>you want, ignoring the gibberish that may appear at first.
>By the time you complete each word, the phone's software
>has consulted its database of 35,000 words and deduced your
>intentions. It's a crazy, way-out plan, but it actually
>For example, suppose you want to type the word pig. You'd
>tap the OP, UI and GH keys. Of course, those combinations
>could also trigger words like OUG, PUH and OIG - but pig is
>the probable choice, so that's what you get on the screen. 
>But what if you really want "pug," which requires the same
>three keys? (Maybe you raise dogs for a living.) 
>In that case, you watch a second, highlighted display just
>below your insertion point. It shows all possible letter
>combinations, no matter how strange-looking, that could
>result from the keys you've pressed so far. If the software
>starts to go off track, you highlight the correct
>interpretation using the side-mounted thumb dial or the
>Next button. 
>Fortunately, you'll rarely have to resort to this
>irritating interruption. In the opening paragraph of this
>column, for example, the BlackBerry's software choked only
>once (on "TiVoholics"). 
>Three factors conspire to make the typing process tolerable
>and - once you're rolling along - even enjoyable. First,
>the BlackBerry learns new words (like a street address or
>"TiVoholic") once you've corrected them, and preferred
>interpretations (like pig vs. pug) after you've corrected
>the phone twice. 
>Second, the BlackBerry's software saves you time in myriad
>little ways. You can omit periods, apostrophes and
>capitalizing the first words of sentences. (Just hit the
>Space bar twice after a sentence to supply both the period
>and the initial capital.) The Space bar also supplies
>symbols in e-mail addresses; if you type "billg microsoft
>com" in an e-mail address box, you get billg at microsoft 
>.com. And to produce an uppercase letter, you can just hold
>down the relevant key a half-second longer than usual. 
>Finally, all of this typing takes place on one of the
>brightest, highest-contrast color screens you've ever seen
>on a cellphone. You even have a choice of font and size for
>all the text displays, which, together with the unusually
>broad, brightly lit keys, makes this gadget especially
>friendly to the over-40 set. 
>As on existing BlackBerry models, the screen isn't
>touch-sensitive; instead, you roll the thumb dial to select
>a menu or icon, and push inward to select it. Navigation is
>foolproof, thanks to the dedicated Back button on the side.
>Corporate e-mail users really have it made; their
>BlackBerries, backed at the office by something called
>enterprise server software, are real-time mirrors of their
>PC in-boxes. Reply on the BlackBerry, find the reply in
>your Sent Mail box back at the office. 
>Everyone else will have to settle for a system in which
>your e-mail (including AOL or Hotmail) is wirelessly
>auto-forwarded, every 15 minutes, to your phone (and to a
>special Web site, for your traveling convenience). When you
>return to your Mac or PC, you'll have no indication that
>you replied, composed, filed or deleted messages on your
>BlackBerry. On the other hand, you can open up Word, Excel
>and PDF files right on the phone. 
>When it comes to Web browsing and chatting, the 7100t
>promises to be much friendlier than its BlackBerry
>predecessors. AIM, Yahoo and I.R.C. instant-messaging
>programs are built right in, and RIM says that the Web
>browser will show all graphics and fonts, formatted to fit
>your screen. (These programs aren't yet complete, so you'll
>have to take RIM's word for it.) 
>All the usual calling features are here: speed dialing,
>three-way calling, caller ID and so on. The address book
>and calendar sync by U.S.B. cable with a Windows PC (or,
>with the addition of a $30 add-on from 
>pocketmac.net, with a Mac). 
>Remember that it's a T-Mobile
>phone, meaning that you may not have service outside of big
>cities. On the other hand, it's a four-band G.S.M. phone,
>meaning that it works just the same in 135 other countries
>(at higher per-minute rates). The new BlackBerry even has a
>Bluetooth transmitter, so that from the depths of your
>pocket, it can connect with a headset without a wire. (The
>Bluetooth feature doesn't work for file transfers, alas -
>only headset communication.) 
>Battery life is only average: four hours of talk time,
>eight days of standby. As a pleasant consolation, you can
>recharge your BlackBerry from a laptop's U.S.B. connector
>when you're on the road. 
>If you love the idea of a thoughtfully designed phone that
>also does e-mail and instant messages, the BlackBerry 7100t
>is a terrific new candidate, but it sure doesn't make your
>buying decision any easier. One of its competitors is the
>Treo 600: available from all five big cellular carriers,
>has a built-in digital camera, contains superior calendar
>and address-book programs and runs thousands of add-on Palm
>programs - but it costs more than twice as much ($450),
>lacks Bluetooth and has those infinitesimal keys. Another
>rival is the T-Mobile Sidekick: built-in camera, full
>alphabet keyboard with comfortably spaced keys, reasonably
>priced ($250) - but it's much bulkier than its rivals and
>it lacks Bluetooth. 
>Of the three, the BlackBerry 7100t offers the lowest price,
>the smallest size and the biggest keys. In designing a
>20-key typing pad, RIM thought way, way outside the box,
>gambling that people wouldn't mind spending half an hour or
>so learning to trust the word-guessing software. If that
>bet pays off, a whole new generation of noncorporate users
>may join the CrackBerry crowd. 
>E-mail: Pogue at nytimes.com 
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swilliams at hpti.com http://www.hpti.com Per: sdw at lig.net http://sdw.st
Stephen D. Williams 703-724-0118W 703-995-0407Fax 20147-4622 AIM: sdw

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