Three reasons I miss my corporate, managed BlackBerry

Posted on September 26, 2011

My Work BlackBerry

I have used every BlackBerry RIM has made over the past 10 years. So, when I set off to buy my very first BlackBerry I was prepared for the challenges and frustrations that I would experience with the carriers on my own. However, I wasn’t prepared for the completely different BlackBerry experience as a consumer versus a business user.  Here are the three things I miss the most about my “work” BlackBerry:




1. Email Delivery and Synchronization – I use Outlook on my PC, which is connected to a POP3 mailbox from my email provider.  At RIM, emails would routinely arrive on my “work” BlackBerry before arriving in Outlook.  Now, my computer is always the first to pick up email and in some cases by several minutes.

On top of that, I desperately miss the email synchronization between my mailbox and my BlackBerry. It drives me nuts that I have to go back through one mailbox or the other to mark items as read.  When I tried explaining this to my family (who all have BlackBerry smartphones) and they looked at me in wonder that this functionality even existed at all.  It makes me wonder if RIM’s customer base truly understands what the product is capable of.  Perhaps more importantly it also signals that as a RIM employee I had no idea about some of the basic missing functionality for our end users.  RIM employees don’t use the same solution as our consumer customers in the market.

It took quite a bit of effort to replicate the email synchronization that I enjoyed at work. At first, I attempted to use the BlackBerry Desktop Manager, which supports synchronization with Outlook, but it doesn’t provide any email sync at all.  Second, I investigated moving back to a hosted exchange mailbox and BES hosted by GoDaddy ($11.80 per month for anyone who is interested) but ultimately decided that moving to IMAP would solve the problem and was much cheaper (an additional $0.50 per month).  

The only major downside is that email synchronization still appears to only work one way with emails marked read in in Outlook are still not marked read on my device.

2. PIM Synchronization – I had a similar experience trying to sync my contacts and calendar.  In this case, the only solution is to use Desktop Manager.  I find myself routinely connecting my device to my computer to synchronize between the two before I head out for meetings or before I go to bed at night.  I asked friends and family how they manage this problem and the response was consistent: they don’t use the calender in Outlook at all; they simply store everything on their BlackBerry.  This is a big loss of functionality and convenience for me and I would gladly pay RIM for a solution that would solve this problem.

3. Address Book Lookup – Over a period of 10 years at RIM I came in contact with thousands of people many of whom were never stored in my address book (including hundreds of key contacts at RIM).  I find it incredibly frustrating that I no longer have access to the RIM Global Address List.  This forced me to properly create an address book, but it also created an opportunity for solutions like Xobni and others to fill that gap.

There are lots of things I don’t miss about my “work” BlackBerry as well but I will save those for the next post.  I would love to hear how many people find this lack of functionality for consumers frustrating. Or, please tell me if I am missing some magical way to get the previous capabilities on my device.

24 Replies to "Three reasons I miss my corporate, managed BlackBerry"

  • David Yorke
    September 26, 2011 (9:20 am)

    Hi Mike, I’m not wanting to sound off here, or to be thought of as overly, or overtly critical…but, you guys at RIM, I know you’re a former RIM’r, have been living in a bubble for too many years. I think it’s been a sign of immense hubris on the part of RIM to assume that we lowly consumers, or app developers were having to match the RIM experience without RIM knowing what the actual end user experience really was. I think the current malaise that RIM is going through is directly attributable to this lack of understanding what goes on outside the “wire” Perhaps there will be a change of climate at Waterloo headquarters, and I for one have much riding on that, however, time will be the final arbiter. I hope you have learned something valuable in the process.

    • J. Rab
      September 26, 2011 (9:31 am)

      @David Yorke: Your reply had nothing to do with the article — just sayin’.

      @MKirkup: you’ll get used to it in time — we have faith =]

  • Nic
    September 26, 2011 (9:46 am)

    The thing that depresses me about this article most is that these are the top three reasons I am starting to lose faith in my BlackBerry and apparently top RIM employees aren’t even aware of the problem yet. That means a fix is not on its way.

  • Derek
    September 26, 2011 (10:01 am)

    Mike, as I read your #1 issue, I’m not sure if I want to laugh or cry. As you’re now well aware, the BIS E-Mail experience is woefully inferior to what BES offers. RIM has gone to great lengths to improve the BIS experience for Gmail IMAP users, but it is still quite lacking for users with normal IMAP servers. In addition to not having any message flag/status synchronization, you’re also completely unable to access mail folders beyond the INBOX. (One of the big advantages of IMAP is that it lets you keep all your folders server-side and accessible from all your mail clients/apps.) I’ve been aware of all of these issues since a few days after I bought my first BlackBerry (a 7105t).

    Now here’s the punchline, of sorts… Do you know what app development project has kept me on the BlackBerry all these years? Its a standalone IMAP/POP/SMTP E-Mail client application ( LogicMail: ) that connects directly to your mail server over the device’s data connection and gives full IMAP folder access. Yes, the one application that you might think a 3rd party developer should never need to write for a BlackBerry. And strangely enough, I’m actually not the only developer to go off and create such an app (e.g. Tiggit, SmartMail, Shangmail, iCJKMail, etc.).

  • Jeff M
    September 26, 2011 (10:06 am)

    Why don’t you just install an exchange server at your house? Doesn’t everyone? 😉

  • Jeff Bacon
    September 26, 2011 (10:55 am)

    In that vein, how many RIM employees are using an iPhone or Android device as their primary day-to-day device? How can a company successfully compete if they don’t know what the true day-to-day experience of their competitors is? The face that there’s not a heterogeneous mix of device setups within RIM even on BlackBerry is amusing as that should be step 1.

  • Joe
    September 26, 2011 (11:32 am)

    Use Gmail. It has everything you’re asking for.

    • mkirkup
      September 26, 2011 (1:31 pm)

      Fair point – I suppose I could have gmail look after my hosted domain for me too. Do you know if the BIS implementation with gmail does all of this synchronization or if you need Google’s software on your device? It was my understanding that they have stopped supporting their Google Mobile solution for the BlackBerry.

      • Mike Stevenson
        September 26, 2011 (5:25 pm)

        Google Apps Premium isn’t that bad of an experience at all… While it still lacks one direction of read email sync, it does make for the best consumer BIS experience. That said, as a long time BES admin I do run the obligatory BESx environment for my personal device(s) while my wife uses BIS with the same Google Apps domain as she isn’t always a fan of my testing, betas and constant changes…

      • Joe
        September 26, 2011 (5:31 pm)

        Gmail over BIS has special on device software to provide synchronization of emails, contacts, calendars and tasks. You don’t need to use the third party application. Read status is one way though.

    • Reny
      February 23, 2012 (4:52 am)

      Start your ms outlook access in ipad with OutlookReflex app.

  • Vernon
    September 26, 2011 (1:51 pm)

    Sounds like RIM needs to hire someone like Derek to fix their email problems.

  • Nick V.
    September 26, 2011 (6:33 pm)

    I’m seriously confused. With the exception of when BIS has gone down, emails from all 9 of my accounts arrive on my BlackBerry before inboxes on my computer- this is including Gmail addresses. I’m willing to bet that it has something to do with which carrier you’re on. If I had to take a guess, I’d say it’s Rogers.

    • mkirkup
      September 26, 2011 (11:07 pm)

      Very interesting. I am definitely on Rogers but had assumed (perhaps incorrectly) that the BIS service would have been consistent across carriers.

      • Richard Buckley
        September 28, 2011 (2:32 pm)

        I’m on Rogres, manage my own BESx server and my own mail domain, and I also have a Google Apps domain. The BESx gets mail forwarded from my mail domain at the same time it is delivered to my IMAP server.

        In terms of delivery time it is always the BES first by 1 to 3 minutes, BIS for IMAP or Google Aps, BIS for regular Google and always last the PC i’m logged into.

        Synchronization and folder access on the BES, if ported to the BIS would be a game changer for RIM.

  • Terrance
    September 26, 2011 (7:22 pm)

    As for Issue #1: Did you also switch your Outlook to use the new IMAP connection? If you did not, then this explains what you are seeing. All POP3 clients work with local storage, meaning that the changes you make are NOT being reflected onto the server. POP3 is, after all, 20+ years old. It pre-dates the need for centralized management.

    • mkirkup
      September 26, 2011 (11:08 pm)

      Thanks Terence.

      Yes, I did switch it over to IMAP which is what gives me the one way email synchronization today. But it still doesn’t give me what I had with BES.


  • Martin Gondermann
    September 27, 2011 (2:11 am)

    Hi Mike,

    you should have a look on my companies solution. We have a BlackBerry connector for a german unified messaging system called “Tobit David” ( We do mostly everything you want here: Mail (yes, the read/unread status too), calendar, tasks, notes, contacts even autotext. Address book lookup we can do too with different sources. It even lets you connect multiple devices (if you want to connect your iPad too) to a single account. You can check it out under (unfortunately the web site is currently in german only)

    • mkirkup
      September 27, 2011 (8:58 am)

      Thanks Martin – I will check it out.

  • Daniel
    September 27, 2011 (2:51 am)

    Hello Mike, good to see you making some experience outside the RIM sphere. 🙂

    With no offence though, I think it’s quite sad that you have to make this experience as you had the opportunity to make a difference and push improvements to a BES like BIS experience or shall we say, the birth of a new XB service ‘eXperience BlackBerry’ by merging the best of both worlds.

    Both solutions have limitations that you only start noticing when you actually use them in a non corporate environment.

    BIS: All you mentioned above. The worst of it: The lack of full two way synchronization of email, read flag etc. But also the lack of full address book synchronization (for example the picture of contacts isn’t synced as far as I remember)

    BES: The restriction to one email address. It’s not possible to have 2+ email accounts via one BES connection.

    Both: The lack the ability to reply to an email from a different email address than the one it was sent to. That’s a limitation how BlackBerry handles emails on the server. But again, nothing that can’t be solved. It just requires fresh, out of the RIM box thinking.

    In summary: While the actual push technology is rock solid, reliable and efficient, the email solution build around it is in serious need of a major overhaul. It’s not really a selling point anymore. Neither to companies nor consumers.

    Being a BB Alliance Select partner, I tried to give feedback, give ideas but in most cases hit the bureaucratic wall that things have to go by orderly processes of feature requests in Jira etc where they sit forever and nobody really cares to look at them. Or they simply got acknowledged. I never managed to really engage in a proper discussion where at the end RIM acknowledges need for improvement and takes something away.

    RIM needs fresh blood, people who believe in RIM, see the potential of the underlying rock solid technology framework but come up with new innovations. I can’t see this happening with the current management (Mike should step back from management and do what he does best: hardware). And you guys need a proper marketing department. Your current marketing is appalling. For example: the only ads I know for the PlayBook point out that it can play flash. Nobody really cares!!!! It’s not a selling point. (Btw: Flash as a platform for application was a terrible choice to make for the PlayBook and a majore waste of time! Mark my words! [Steve Jobs may have a personal hate for Flash but he is good in something: spotting and setting technology trends. And Flash is on its way out!] WebWorks fine, Native SDK yes. But one year on nothing has been added. We still wait for Java. RIM should have had a full Java 6 JVM when showcasing the PlayBook at DevCon 2010! Sales of the PB would be much higher by now!)

    If you’re going to be at DevCon in SF next month, it would be great to catch up.

    P.S. Sorry or hijacking the thread and slightly deviating from the subject.

    • mkirkup
      September 27, 2011 (8:58 am)

      Thanks Daniel.

      I really appreciate your passion for the platform and the BlackBerry solution. It is people like you who will help RIM continue to evolve and improve their products. I suspect that there is a great appetite inside the company to take feedback from the broader community and drive that into the end products both for enterprise and consumer customers. It would be worth trying again.


  • Josep Maria
    September 27, 2011 (2:59 am)

    Welcome to the real and frustrating BIS world Mike 😉

  • Josep Maria
    September 27, 2011 (3:28 am)

    My experience:

    – Configure BIS email accounts with IMAP, never with POP3
    – Find a provider with IMAP IDLE support, you can have a better quickly delivery
    – Use Webmail, not Outlook 🙂
    – Find a provider with SyncML support, and use a SyncML client like (try with Rackspace hFunambol). If you want to use Outlook exist too SyncML clients for outlook. You can sync Task, Calendar, Notes and Contacts
    – Find a provider with Mobile webmail for remote email search
    – and of course Install BlackBerry Protect 🙂

    Good luck!!

    • mkirkup
      September 27, 2011 (8:54 am)

      Thanks Josep. Appreciate you taking the time to share your feedback.

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