Friday, February 1, 2002

How the Palm i705 stacks up against the RIM BlackBerry


By Steve Niles

Elsewhere in this issue of PalmPower's Enterprise Edition, you'll find our first look at the brand new Palm i705, an update of the Palm VII series wireless handhelds. The hot i705's got a sleek, attractive new look and a host of exciting new features. Like its predecessors in the Palm VII line, the Palm i705 has wireless capability built right in, and in this new product, an always-on antenna allows you to receive and be notified of incoming email, even when the device is turned off.

Also in that article, we talked about some of the cool accessories that are being released in conjunction with the Palm i705. Among them was the Palm Mini Keyboard, a slim, ergonomic keyboard that slides over the base of your Palm i705, covering right up to the top edge of the silkscreen area, as shown in Figure A.


The Palm Mini Keyboard lets your thumbs do the typing. (click for larger image)

The keyboard uses the standard QWERTY layout. It's designed so that you can hold the device by the keyboard and type with your thumbs. The first time I saw the Palm i705 with the Palm Mini Keyboard attachment, I had the obvious thought, "Hey, that looks a lot like a BlackBerry."

I'm sure many of you are familiar with RIM (Research In Motion) at The company can be said to be a Palm competitor, in the sense that they produce a combination pager and wireless email device called a BlackBerry. You've probably seen it, but just in case, the RIM BlackBerry 957 is pictured in Figure B.


RIM's Blackberry 957 provides wireless access to email. (click for larger image)

You'll notice the keyboard design looks very similar to the new Palm Mini Keyboard. There's a large segment of the user base that finds Grafitti input too slow for extensive writing and full-size keyboards impractical in certain situations where a lap or a desktop are not available. A thumb-size keyboard is a good idea, and it's a great addition to the Palm product line. It makes particular sense for the Palm i705, as being a wireless device; it will no doubt be used heavily for email.

Now, to be fair, Palm also offers the amazing, folding Palm Portable Keyboard, which many believe is far more suited for typing than a thumb-style keyboard. Although the folding keyboard, made by a company called Think Outside, is available for many brands of handheld device, there's no full-size keyboard of it's style available for the RIM. To many people, including PalmPower's own Editor-in-Chief, David Gewirtz, this lack of a "real" keyboard greatly diminishes the value of the RIM implementation.