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The New Blackberry 8800: Not Just For Work

The Blackberry 8800 is simply the best device that RIM has ever put out. While Blackberrys have always been the hands down leader in push email technology, they have been lacking the additional functionality that has become commonplace on other smartphones (such as the Treo or Q). The Blackberry 8800 changes all of this.

The Blackberry 8800 is sleek. With its glossy finish and shiny chrome trim, the device seems more like a Motorola Q in my hand than any of my past 3 Blackberrys. The 8800 includes a media player. This turns your Blackberry into a music and video player. The MicroSD card expansion slot can accommodate up to a 2GB memory card (1GB cards are available for less than $20). Voice-dialing has been a standard function on my cell phones for years, but has been absent from the Blackberry line until now. GPS is also added through the integration of the Telenav software package (this is a paid subscription service).

One of the most notable changes, especially to a longtimet Blackberry user, is the omission of the classic Blackberry scroll wheel. This navigation device has been replaced by a trackball located in the center of the phone. This trackball is flanked by the traditional escape button (normally found on the side, below the scroll wheel) and a new menu button. While this is taking me some getting used to, this new way of navigating through the Blackberry?s applications and menus seems to be more intuitive. The Blackberry newbie won?t experience this transition period.

For those familiar with Blackberrys, you may be saying to yourself that all of these features have been available on the Blackberry Pearl for several months. While the Pearl shares all of the great new features and adds a camera, which is sadly absent from the 8800, the lack of a full QWERTY keyboard keeps the Pearl from being a good business solution. Try writing a couple of emails on the ?SureType? keyboard and you will agree.

If you are in the market for a smartphone, the Blackberry 8800 is the best business device with personal life functionality that I have come across. It is only available from Cingular at this point. Cingular was also the first to adopt the Blackberry 8700, but Verizon and Sprint finally came along with the 8703, so it probably is just a matter of time for them with the 8800.

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Need a Computer Now, But Can?t Run Windows Vista?

I have found myself in a bit of a predicament these last few weeks. Occasionally I’m approached by a real estate agent for recommendations on what computer to purchase. Up until recently, I have always had an answer for them. This all changed with the introduction of Windows Vista. As I discussed in my recent posting, ?Real Estate Agents: Windows Vista Isn?t a Good View for You, Yet.?, it would be ill-advised to recommend a computer running Windows Vista to a real estate agent at this point in time. It could take months for all of the programs that a real estate agent relies on to become Vista compatible. There are still options of purchasing a Windows XP machine. Dell and HP are continuing to offer Windows XP on their business series computers. You can also find remaining inventory of Windows XP computers in local electronic stores. Recommending this option is difficult for me, though, since Windows XP is a 5 year old operating system. Why purchase dying technology? You could always upgrade to Vista on one of these machines once compatibility issues have been resolved. The upgrade would be a costly endeavor in both time and money. I have run across a solution to this recent dilemma. Polywell Computers (http://www.polywell.com/), an award-winning computer builder based out of South San Francisco, is offering to install both Windows XP and Windows Vista on the same computers. This is what is known as a ?dual-boot? machine. Upon starting the computer, you are given the choice of working in Windows XP or Vista. Having a dual-boot machine gives you the best of both worlds. You can continue to run your real estate business on Windows XP and slowly acclimate yourself to Windows Vista. Once all of your programs are updated to run smoothly on Vista, you can simply phase-out your use of XP. If this solution sounds good to you, keep these 2 things in mind. First, you will be purchasing 2 operating systems, so your computer will cost you about $200 more than a single-boot system. Second, don?t skimp on hard drive space, since you will be actually splitting your hard drive in half. Additional hard drive space is cheap these days, so this shouldn?t be too much of a concern.

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Real Estate Agents: Windows Vista Isn?t a Good View for You, Yet.

The wait is finally over. Microsoft has finally released its replacement for the aging Windows XP operating system. You may be wondering if you should go out and purchase a new computer running this highly publicized new operating system or purchase an upgrade. My advice to you is keep waiting.

There are 2 main reasons to NOT purchase Vista at this time. The first is related to hardware compatibility. Every component of a computer needs software, called drivers, to work properly and these drivers are operating system specific. Not all hardware has stable drivers available for Vista as of yet. In fact, Reggie Nicolay (my fellow blogger) and I are ready to purchase new home machines running Vista (we are keeping Windows XP on all of our business machines), but the manufacturer is having driver issues so we are waiting as well.

The second reason to NOT purchase Vista at this time has to do with software compatibility. While main stream software companies seem to be reasonably prepared for Vista, it is going to take weeks, if not months, for real estate and lending software companies to update their products for Vista. In my area, 2 invaluable programs (Winforms and our MLS) are not Vista compatible. Without those tools, an agent couldn?t do business.

If you are in the market for a new computer?

Hold off if you can. If you are in a situation where you need a new computer, purchase one with Windows XP installed and get an ?Express Upgrade? coupon for Vista. Many computer manufacturers are still offering XP on machines and there are still many machines in stock at your local big-box store with XP loaded.

The Express Upgrade coupon is available for any computer purchased since October. Those coupons can be redeemed for a free upgrade copy of Vista (usually with a $10 shipping charge). The catch is that they must be redeemed by March 31st of this year. So if you bought a computer in that timeframe, dig out that coupon, send it in and then hold on to the Vista upgrade disc until the dust settles.

If you are considering upgrading…

What?s the rush? From what I have read, there aren?t many features that are going to enhance your real estate business, but the time you waste dealing with incompatibilities will definitely take away from your productivity.

Only consider an upgrade to Vista if the computer is relatively new (look for a Windows Vista Capable sticker on the machine) or if you got an Express Upgrade coupon with your machine. Even then you need to do your homework before you move forward with the installation. Contact the manufacturer of the machine to determine if compatible drivers are available and how to get them. That isn?t too difficult and those types of problems should be solved soon. You will also need to identify all of the programs that you rely on and determine if they are Vista compatible. This can usually be found out by visiting the software manufacturer?s website.

The lure of a new operating system can be tempting, especially for those of us with an affinity towards technology, but we can?t lose site of our objectives. If you are a real estate agent, your objective is to sell houses, not invest hours to overcome technical issues. Keep life simple and let others be the guinea pigs for Vista.