[Another of my VC newsletters from 1999, this one waxing on about a piece of technology I'd just picked up at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas: a RIM 850, the very first Blackberry.
Using it around New York, the response from my friends at investment banks, hedge funds, and law firms was unanimous: clearly, nobody outside of the world of high tech would ever, ever carry something like that.]
Yesterday, I received about two hundred email messages. To most normal people, that seems like an ungodly number. But from many people involved in internet businesses, the response is “yeah, that’s about right,” or “only two hundred?” Of those two hundred, three were spam and about twenty were newsletters and other updates. But at least half required some sort of timely response.
Regardless of the number, email has become central to my way of business. And most people that I talk with say the same thing. Many executives of internet firms even prefer sending email over talking on the phone. The difficulty, however, is that phones are available to executives on the go; email, by and large, isn’t.
I recently, however, discovered a solution: the RIM 850. About the size of a standard 2-way pager, the RIM sports a slightly larger than usual screen and a tiny Qwerty keyboard. But packed into the small black gadget is a lot of functionality. The RIM is a PDA, sends and receives email, and browses the web.
While the PDA is fairly simple, it does everything I need. And despite the keyboard’s small size, typing emails by thumb is surprisingly fast and comfortable. Unlike the Palm VII, coverage is nationwide, and because the 850 runs on a pager network, building penetration is quite good. The 850 is also better than the Palm VII for three other reasons. First, the 850 can check your existing POP account, instead of requiring a special firstname.lastname@example.org address. Second, the 850 checks mail continually, and, like a pager, notifies you instantly, by tone or vibration, when you receive new mail. Third, the 850 is priced on a flat fee, equal to the Palm VII’s second cheapest plan. My two hundred messages would more than burn through an entire month’s worth of the Palm’s top plan in less than a day.
The little web browser is also surprisingly good. The GoWeb browser strips everything but text from pages and then compresses them for faster transmission. You can check headlines, stock prices and sports scores, get driving directions, and even search the yellow pages from the palm of your hand.
The best part, however, is that, by your instant responses, you appear to be a workaholic. You seem to always be waiting by your computer, when, in fact, you could be anywhere at all. Which is why I was glad to see that the RIM network has full coverage throughout Hawaii.