Goodbye RIM, Microsoft, hello Android, Google Apps

November 20th, 2009 at 1:07 AM  5 Comments

androidThose of you who know me, know that I have been an avid BlackBerry proponent for many years. I held fast to the opinion that BlackBerry coupled with Microsoft Exchange was the solution for business mobile communications. Be it BlackBerry Enterprise Server or Microsoft ActiveSync, I held steadfast in my opinion that nothing could perform as well or better in maintaining perfect harmony between my desktop, my laptop, my phone, and anywhere access to my information. I am here to say, that era has ended. A moment of silence, please. Now that the mourning is over, let me tell you the changes I’ve made, how, and why.

First, let me say that I had not been looking to leave the BlackBerry/Exchange family, but I was holding out for a full screen BlackBerry with a physical keyboard, a slider if you will. Those of you who follow mobile devices closely, especially those who follow BlackBerry hardware, are well aware of the numerous design concept drawings, mock-ups, etc. of a BlackBerry slider that have been floating around for at least a year. Never revealing just exactly when we would see such a device, RIM has only been willing to confirm that several design options have been considered. This secrecy is nothing unusual among device manufacturers, but the lack of information and an opportunity provided by a competitor presents a precarious position, and, in this case, caused a long time RIM fan to jump ship.

One of my fellow TechVirtuoso staffers, Eric Iles, made the move to the Palm Pre when it first came out earlier this year. He had several problems with the device that caused him to go through a few of the phones before getting one that seemed to work without issues. Even though Eric finally worked through the issues he was having with the phone and seemed to finally have a working unit, he still wasn’t happy with the device, or the lack of applications available. Eric ended up switching to the HTC Hero, Sprint’s first offering on Google’s Android platform. I visited the local Sprint store several times and played around with the Hero. I really liked the look and feel of Android, and HTC’s custom Sense UI is very aesthetically appealing. The only thing I couldn’t get used to, and it turned out to be a deal breaker for me, no physical keyboard. This wasn’t a huge surprise for me. I have never liked typing on any touchscreen phone. My daughter has a Samsung Instinct, I hate it. I’ve used friends iPhones, hate them too. I have big fingers, and no matter how much I “train” the phones, I always seem to spend more time hitting backspace than I want. So, the HTC Hero was a no go for me. Then along came Polly, err… Moment.

Having told Eric that I couldn’t get used to the on screen keyboard, he directed me to a Sprint press release announcing the Samsung Moment, a slider Android based phone, that was due out on November 1st. Monday, November 2nd, I was at the Sprint store. Having gotten my hands on the HTC Hero several times, and having read as much online as I could, I was somewhat familiar with the overall functions of the Android OS. I was more interested in how the Samsung Moment felt, how the keyboard worked, and whether or not I would be able to type on it reliably. I spent about 20 minutes looking over the Moment, and decided to make the jump, and just to make sure I saw it through and wouldn’t have a crutch to fall back on, I let Sprint buyback my BlackBerry Curve. I was going Android.

Once the transactions were complete, the new phone configured, my next concern was getting my e-mail, calendar, contacts, etc. setup on my new phone. I ran my own Exchange server and my own BlackBerry Enterprise Server, and was considering setting up ActiveSync and just moving forward. Once again, Eric offered up a suggestion, that I should take a look at Google Apps, and moving my e-mail and letting Google host it. Our TechVirtuoso e-mail is Google hosted, as was our e-mail at our previous venture, and we’ve had nothing but positive results with it. After I thought about it for a day or two, I thought, why not. It takes the responsibility off of me, it will simplify the unison of data between my devices, and if I don’t like it, it’s easy enough to switch it back. Back, don’t think that’s a direction I’ll be taking.

Signing up for Google Apps Standard (free) Edition is simple, and in doing so, provides the opportunity to try Google Apps Premier free for 30 days. This is key, because Google Apps Premier gives you access to Google’s migration tools which provide you with easy solutions for migrating your existing data from another server, such as a Microsoft Exchange Server. So, I signed up for my Google Apps Standard account and registered for the free 30 day trial of Google Apps Premier, setup the Exchange migration to pull my existing contacts, calendar, e-mail, etc. from my Microsoft Exchange Server, and let it run overnight. The next morning the transfer was complete, and I canceled my 30 day trial of Google Apps Premier, reverting my account to Google Apps Standard. I now have all of my mail, contacts, calendar, etc. transferred over to my new Google hosted e-mail service, it’s automatically synchronized on my phone, my laptop, any PC for that matter, as I just log into my account via the web and there it is, wherever I am.

This is where I start experimenting with the Android platform, and finding out for myself just how useful and business friendly it is. I’ll save those thoughts for my next post, so stay tuned!