The Business-Savvy Smartphone Review: Nokia E62, BlackBerry Pearl, T-Mobile Dash, Palm Treo 750

CIO compares four of the hottest smartphones available, from the perspective of four experienced IT executives.

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Thu, April 26, 2007

CIO

Introduction

Smart devices—call 'em what you will: handhelds, smartphones, PDAs—make business people's lives easier. They help to ensure continuous communication by offering features like calendar applications, instant messaging and e-mail services, cell phone functionality and Web access.

Any number of today's smart devices can satisfy the basic needs of the average business user, and plenty of websites can give you consumer-conscious reviews. However, the real challenge for IT executives seeking smartphones for themselves or for their organizations is selecting a device that fits their telecom needs with as few tweaks to the company's IT architectures as possible—and therefore as little time and money expended.




There are important differences between selecting phones as a business handheld and choosing a consumer device. Most consumers need only basic phone and messaging functionality; everything else is just frosting on the cake. Not so for business users. CIOs and their staff depend on smartphones to stay connected; in some cases, mobile devices keep their companies up and running. Depending on the organization, specific features beyond phone calls and e-mail are a necessary part of business.

Even when CIOs are willing to upgrade their architecture or buy new hardware, it pays to know the implications of launching a new device across the enterprise. Some devices don't support corporate e-mail services without specific mail servers. Some are designed to function with specific servers, so they work better with one than another.

If you're researching corporate smartphone deployment, the first thing you should do is assess the organization's needs, and thus create a sort of informal criteria for selecting a phone. Purchasing business phones without a clear idea of how the company will use them is like hosting a dinner party and offering only chopsticks as utensils, even though you're unsure if the main dish will be a porterhouse steak, fried chicken or sushi.

For instance, you need to determine if your users frequently compose and reply to messages, or if they employ the device more to monitor inboxes in case of an emergency. Do your users need the functionality to view documents, and if so, which file formats must the phone support? Do users need to create and edit documents? Do they travel overseas? What level of security is necessary? Is it OK for your corporate smartphones to include digital cameras and expandable memory, which can introduce their own risks?

Second, assess your current IT architecture to identify the mail servers your organization uses (and the version thereof), as well as corporate mail clients, firewalls and other existing systems that may be affected by a smartphone deployment.

These first two steps are on you, but we can help with the rest. In the following pages, we provide an in-depth look at four of the hottest smartphones available today—Research In Motion's BlackBerry Pearl 8100, Nokia's E62, Palm's Treo 750, and T-Mobile's Dash—through the eyes of four IT executives: Paul Roche, Network Services CIO; Stephen Ramsey, principal with Brulant; Hugh Scott, Direct Energy VP of IS; and Stacey Morrison, an aerospace industry deputy CIO. In other words, we bring to you both a technical overview and a real-world exploration of what the features mean in a business environment.

We intentionally selected devices with varying levels of business and consumer-oriented features. Doing so can help CIOs understand what a corporate deployment would mean for users and IT departments, and also highlights what it takes to support a phone that users might purchase themselves and request that you link to the company network.

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