Friday, February 1, 2002

How the Palm i705 stacks up against the RIM BlackBerry

So the question is, if RIM already makes a device with a thumb-size keyboard that wirelessly sends and receives email, how does it compare to the Palm i705? We've done some poking around, and we think we've been able to put together a reasonably impartial comparison between the machines. In terms of specifications and wireless applications, Palm's advantage is so big, there's almost no comparison. However, that won't stop us from going ahead and comparing them anyway.

I'll give you a general view of how the two devices compare in the following two sections. At the end, I'll sum it all up in two handy tables for your reference.

Product specifications

The product specifications are kind of like the nuts and bolts of the two devices, along with their general size and shape. As far as their physical characteristics are concerned, they're about even. The Palm i705 measures 4.65 x 3.06 x 0.61 inches and weighs 5.9 ounces. The BlackBerry measures 4.6 x 3.1 x 0.70 inches and weighs 5.3 ounces. In terms of the user interface, both devices make use of icons and text menus. However, when it comes to data input, the Palm i705 has a lot more options. With the BlackBerry, you've got only the device's build-in thumb-style keyboard I talked about earlier. The Palm i705 has the thumb-operated Palm Mini-Keyboard, an enhanced on-screen tap keyboard, Graffiti writing, Jot, the Palm Portable Keyboard, and an infrared port for beaming.

Operating system

Moving on to the operating system, the Palm i705 uses what Palm calls the "open, standard" version 4.1 of the Palm OS (and, in the sense that it is licensed to the likes of Sony and Handspring, it is a somewhat open OS). The RIM BlackBerry 957 uses its own proprietary OS.

Connectivity

In terms of connectivity, the Palm model has the advantage of having both integrated wireless and wireline connectivity, whereas the BlackBerry has integrated wireless connectivity only.

Processor and developer base

The microprocessor is the actual core of the machine where all the calculations that run the machine are performed. It's basically the brain of the device. The Palm i705 uses a 33 MHz Motorola Dragonball VZ, and the BlackBerry uses a 32-bit Intel 386. These are architecturally different processors, but speed-wise, they're more or less in the same ballpark. However, in terms of developing for the respective processors, Palm has a far wider pool of third-party Palm OS developers than there are RIM developers. That means a greater and more varied array of software are available for the Palm handheld.

Encryption

When sending company email (or even personal email for that matter), you're going to want strong end-to-end encryption. The Palm i705 utilizes DESX (Data Encryption Standard Extended), and the BlackBerry utilizes 3DES (Triple Data Encryption Standard). Both are breakable, but they'd require prodigious attempts to do so, meaning banks of computers dedicated to cracking the code. The key is how you use the encryption, and that depends on your company and the security it runs on its email servers. It also depends on what could be called "good practices." For example, both these devices can be secured with a password, however, if you write down your password on a piece of masking tape stuck to the back of your handheld, it's not going to do you much good (yes, we know who you are!).