Bridge Links the BlackBerry PlayBook with Your Smartphone

Research in Motion, the developers of the BlackBerry PlayBook, has a business plan that emphasizes security and reliability above bells and whistles. Not that its devices don’t eventually reach the point where they will ring your chimes or toot your horn: it’s just that they reach that point after having built a very solid foundation.

Here was the problem (or opportunity) presented to the RIM designers:

  • Find a way to allow the owner of a nifty new BlackBerry PlayBook tablet access to all the important information stored on their BlackBerry smartphone. This would include things like:

    • Contacts. Names, addresses, phone numbers, and notes about people with whom you deal. You can quickly initiate an e-mail or a message based on the information you find in a contacts list.

    • Calendar. On the BlackBerry smartphone, the calendar can exist as a standalone database or can be synchronized with a corporate calendar or the contents held in a computer-based program like Microsoft Outlook. You can look at your calendar on a daily or monthly view.

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    • MemoPad. Notes or clippings you’ve stored for your own purposes. For example, the current ferry schedule from the mainland, a hardware store shopping list, and random jottings of bon mots, marvelous inventions you need to produce, or encrypted records of credit card numbers in case you lose your wallet but keep your phone.

    • Tasks. An electronic form of a To-Do note, somewhere between a calendar item and a MemoPad jotting. You can enter a reminder on your phone, assign it to a date and time, categorize it by type, and then give it a priority. All that needs to be done . . . is to complete the task.

    • Messages. A look-see from your PlayBook into the built-in e-mail and IM service maintained on your smartphone. Take advantage of the reading pane and larger screen to go through you stack of messages. You can reply to the sender using the larger onscreen keyboard; other features include Reply All and Forward. You can attach files from your tablet or smartphone. And you can flag a message to indicate its urgency.

    • Bridge files. Browse and open files stored on the smartphone’s media card, a plug-in block of flash memory available on most BlackBerry phone models. You can see the file types that are supported for viewing using the Bridge files utility.

  • Design the system in a way that maintains the vaunted security of the BlackBerry smartphone while exploiting the advantages of the BlackBerry PlayBook. The solution here: keep the information on the BlackBerry smartphone and avoid storing it in the BlackBerry PlayBook. When you disconnect the BlackBerry Bridge the data remains where it was — on the phone.

  • Allow the BlackBerry PlayBook owner another way to access the Internet (by connecting to the cellular data link already in place on the BlackBerry smartphone). It’s called the Bridge Browser, and it lets you use your tablet, its larger screen, and advanced web browser on the data plan of your BlackBerry phone.

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    If you’re using a BlackBerry PlayBook that’s managed by an IT administrator, and if that well-meaning security-obsessed manager permits it, you can use BlackBerry Bridge to connect through your BlackBerry smartphone to browse your organization’s intranet.

Now this is a classic high-tech good-news, possibly bad-news case study.

  • As a BlackBerry smartphone user, you’re already paying for a cellular contract for voice calls. Nothing changes here.

  • Most BlackBerry smartphone owners pay an additional monthly fee for web access and data services such as e-mail and instant messaging. That won’t change either.

  • Here comes the possibly less-than-good news. In theory, if you have one of the original model BlackBerry PlayBook tablets, you can use BlackBerry Bridge to connect to your BlackBerry smartphone and use the phone’s cellular data connection to surf, check e-mail, and do all the wonderful things you do in your modern electronic life.

    And the beautiful thing, at least for the moment: you’d be using your existing smartphone data plan and pay nothing extra for using the PlayBook over the cellular connection.

    So what is the possible bad news? Some cellular providers may choose to limit or disable the use of the cellular data link in the phone across BlackBerry Bridge.

    Or they may charge an additional fee. But back to the good news: if you stay on the WiFi link (not the Bluetooth-powered BlackBerry Bridge) you should be able to find free or low-cost connections to the Internet that don’t involve the sometimes-greedy fingers of cellular providers.

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