Mac BlackBerry Users Rejoice: RIM Promises New Mac Tools

The future is bright for Apple Mac users who love their RIM BlackBerrys. That's because new, Mac-compatible tools for BlackBerry users are expected within the first half of 2009. Wireless services that will address BlackBerry-related issues for Mac users are also on the horizon.

Macintosh users and BlackBerry users have much in common; they can be fanatical about their favored hardware (and we do mean that in a good way). But it has been difficult to be a devotee of both, because the Mac support from Research in Motion (RIM) has been lackluster. For years, RIM BlackBerry users with Macintosh computers have complained about the lack of Mac-compatible BlackBerry tools. But that's all going to change within the coming year.

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RIM plans to release a set of new tools within the first half of 2009 which will address a number of longstanding complaints from Mac users, according to a source within RIM who asked to remain nameless because the company's not yet ready to officially announce details or release dates.

It can't happen too soon, as the existing limitations can be annoying, to say the least. Currently, BlackBerry owners with Macs cannot perform a number of important functions which are built-in to users running Microsoft Windows with RIM's BlackBerry Desktop Manager software, shipped with every BlackBerry device. The Desktop Manager utility (which, we're told, does run in Parallels) enables Windows users to update their BlackBerry operating systems; to back up and restore data on their BlackBerrys; and to manage BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) corporate e-mail settings, as well as other features.

There are a couple of Desktop Manager alternatives for Mac users, including PocketMac and Missing Sync, but neither offers close to the full range of features within BlackBerry Desktop Manager for PC. In fact, in the first two installments of this BlackBerrys and Macs series, we compared RIM's Desktop Manager with Pocket Mac and Missing Sync to see how the software measured up. It's clear that neither is a suitable Desktop Manager alternative for power users.

"We know that we don't have an ideal solution for Mac users," the RIM source said. "It's something that's been on our radar since 2004, at least."

Though the source said the new Mac tools are expected during the first half of next year, he would not provide specific details on release dates or product features. It's still unclear whether RIM plans to release its own Mac-compatible version of Desktop Manager or work with a third-party software vendor to develop a comparable product (like an improved version of PocketMac). Conceivably they might consider a combination of the two, in which RIM-developed software would be packaged along with software from an outside vendor. The current version of the RIM-developed BlackBerry Desktop Manager for PC includes third-party media management software from Roxio.

"In terms of a strategy, we want to do well by our customers. Whether that translates into something that RIM develops or licenses or pays for a third party to build, I can't say at this point," the RIM source said. "We're trying the best that we can to get a better experience out for Mac users."

RIM's future strategy also includes a sharper focus on wireless, or over-the-air (OTA), services, the source said. For example, the latest available version of the BlackBerry OS, v4.6, which currently is found on RIM's new BlackBerry Bold 9000 device, lets BES and BlackBerry Internet Service (BIS) users upgrade their handheld OS wirelessly, directly from their BlackBerrys; no desktop computer, be it Mac or PC, is necessary.

"Our long-term strategy is to be able to keep the user going without requiring them to be connected to the desktop for anything," the source said. "That's the ultimate aim."

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