Lenovo Constant Connect, developed in conjunction with BlackBerry maker Research In Motion, syncs e-mail between a user's BlackBerry smartphone and ThinkPad notebook, allowing transfer of whole e-mails and attachments from mobile device to PC even if the PC isn't on. This jointly developed technology represents the first product of a newly announced partnership between RIM and Lenovo.
In Motion and Lenovo on Feb. 16 announced a partnership to create
mobile solutions for business travelers, starting with Lenovo Constant Connect,
which syncs e-mail between a user's RIM BlackBerry smartphone and Lenovo ThinkPad
The retail price point for Constant Connect has been set at $150. The
technology will be available in the United
States in the second quarter of 2009, and
will roll out worldwide in the second half of 2009, the companies said. RIM and
Lenovo plan to officially announce their partnership at the Mobile World
Congress, which kicks off Feb. 16 in Barcelona,
Physically speaking, Lenovo Constant Connect is a PCI ExpressCard that plugs
seamlessly into a ThinkPad notebook. From that point on, e-mail received on the
user's BlackBerry will be synchronized via a Bluetooth connection with the
user's ThinkPad, even if the ThinkPad in question is turned off.
"It will transfer, not only e-mail, but the e-mail in its entirety and
any attachments in their native format, so you can work on them in PowerPoint
or Word," Rich Cheston, executive director and distinguished engineer at
Lenovo, said in an interview. "It's a pretty simple concept, but it took a
long time to pull off."
For enterprise users on the road, Constant Connect could offer a greater
degree of accessibility, as the ability to access e-mail on a ThinkPad via a
BlackBerry means no more need to ferret out an airport or hotel hot spot-or
even, for that matter, to turn the laptop on. Constant Connect has been
designed to work with BlackBerry OS 4.2 or higher.
During the initial rollout, Constant Connect will support Microsoft Exchange
and Outlook, as well as Google Gmail; this will be followed by IBM's
Lotus Notes in the second half of 2009.
The initial configuration for Constant Connect offers users a high level of
granular control, according to Cheston.
"The first-time setup will allow users to configure multiple e-mail
accounts; you can have the device transfer [your] boss's e-mail first, for
example, or have it only deliver certain attachments from certain people,"
Constant Connect represents the first collaboration between Lenovo and RIM.
The two said they plan to continue the partnership and develop other types of
mobile products that take advantage of both companies' intellectual property
"Going forward I would expect [Lenovo and RIM] to do similar types of
engagements because there are other phone types or device types they would want
to share data easily with a laptop," John Spooner, an analyst for Technology
Business Research, said in an interview. "Lenovo is also trying to boost
its peripherals revenue; this is one way to do that."
The opportunity for synergy had been explored by both
companies for roughly two years.
"Lenovo is adding significant value for our mutual customers by
developing tighter and more seamless integration between Lenovo ThinkPad
laptops and BlackBerry smartphones," Jim Balsillie, co-CEO
of RIM, said in a statement. "Lenovo Constant Connect will simplify e-mail
synchronization on the laptop and provide mobile professionals with greater
flexibility to manage their e-mail on the move."
Constant Connect also represents a growing trend in laptops that can perform
functions even while powered down.
"We're seeing quite a bit of evolution of data
transfer involving a notebook that's technically off," Dean McCarron, an
analyst with Mercury Research, said in an interview. "It's still kind of a
bonus feature rather than a primary feature, but it could have a lot of utility
for corporate users."
Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.