15 hottest products of 2008: Blackberry Storm, Bold

Swimming in the wake of the Apple iPhone is Blackberry, with its army of addicted executives eager for the sexy features of touchscreen technology but unwilling to give up the workhorse dependability of RIM's network. This year it unveiled two new phones, the Bold and the Storm, that purport to respond to that thirst.

The Bold is a baby step in the iPhone's direction, with a new OS that handles music, video, and internet access much faster via 3G technology. The phone has a small screen and Blackberry's typical scrunched QWERTY keyboard, but can run applications such as AOL's IM service and a mobile version of Facebook.

Ironically, the really bold step is the Blackberry Storm, which offers a larger screen by ditching the keyboard in favor of a touchscreen version. Backed by a $100 million ad campaign, RIM pushed this model out in time for what looks to be the worst Christmas shopping season in recent memory. Ouch!

Both phones feature very crisp, vibrant screens and easy integration with most PC calenders and phone books. Both have built-in cameras with flash, are Bluetooth equipped, and handle a variety of audio and video entertainment formats. Like other Blackberry products, battery life is excellent.

Both are a bit light on memory (1 GB) but will accept a micro SD card for additional capacity. Both provide capabilities crucial for the road warrior, including corporate data access, e-mail, IM, and GPS.

After the initial excitement surrounding the unveiling of the Storm, however, reports of annoying bugs have raised reservations in the minds of many reviewers. The New York Times' David Pogue dissed RIM for abandoning its competitive advantage of dependability and functionality in return for sexy features that just didn't work very well. He also noted that the Storm, unlike the iPhone, doesn't have Wi-Fi, severely limiting internet access.

Park of the cloud forming over the Storm is, in my opinion, based on a false comparison; those who expect the Storm to go head-to-head with the iPhone don't appreciate the difference in target audiences. One is a work tool, the other an entertainment device. As a work tool, the Blackberry has been very successful. As a entertainment provider, though, the heat of the fire that accompanied by this phone's introduction may be doused by a Storm of bugs.

For the time being, I'm sticking with my old-fashioned Blackberry. If I can't do my business, I'll have no time or money for amusements anyway.

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