BlackBerry attracts third-party improvements

Research in Motion's BlackBerry handheld is still attracting major mobile phone vendors as well as enterprise-level...

Research in Motion's BlackBerry handheld is still attracting major mobile phone vendors as well as enterprise-level infrastructure providers, despite having only a small market share.

In November, Nextel Communications will offer a slightly redesigned BlackBerry that will include Nextel's Direct Connect functionality, according to James Mooney, chief operating officer at Nextel. Mooney said the redesign would make it look more like a handset.

Direct Connect, a feature unique to Nextel, is similar in concept to a walkie-talkie, allowing users to use voice communications over a radio frequency without incurring any fees. The Direct Connect technology is licensed by Nextel from Motorola and will launch as a nationwide service next June.

The Nextel/BlackBerry unit also will have full phone features.

Meanwhile, OnSet Technology, will launch Version 4 of its METAmessage for Wireless server and client software for BlackBerry units next month.

The upgraded software will give users the ability to search the Web without using a browser, print files to any network printer, and include an upgraded version of its formatting capabilities for Excel spreadsheets, PowerPoint and Word files.

Using the client software, any search item can be typed into the BlackBerry unit, which sends it to the METAmessage server. The server in turn executes a Google search and sends the results back to the handheld device. Version 4 will also allow users to "drill down" through layers of embedded links.

The printing capability will enable remote users to find a printer on the network to print a file.

The advanced formatting capabilities for Microsoft Office documents include the ability to freeze panes, change cell sizes, copy cells and use both the Find and Go to Cell commands in Excel spreadsheets.

METAmessage 4.0 will cost $3,000 (£1,915) for a 20-user licence.

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