Research In Motion's BlackBerry Presenter capably allows users to wirelessly transmit presentations to an external monitor or projector, although early generation bugs and quirks deliver a less-than-seamless overall experience.
Specifically, the BlackBerry Presenter-which will be available soon for $199 from shopblackberry.com-lets a BlackBerry user stream a PowerPoint slide deck from a smartphone over a Bluetooth connection to a small appliance plugged into a separate monitor or projector, instead of needing complicated connections to a PC. The speaker can wander the room during the presentation, using the BlackBerry as a remote control for the presentation.
The appliance measures a highly portable 3.4 by 2.4 by 0.9 inches and offers VGA and S-Video connections for video output. Output resolution depends on the connection-via the VGA connection, the best resolution is 1024 by 768, while S-Video tops out at 640 by 480. The device also has a small switch on the back to toggle between PAL (Phase Alternating Line) and NTSC (National Television Standards Committee) video standards.
I was happy to see that the Presenter is powered by the same model charger used for BlackBerry smartphones, so travelers won't need to carry separate power modules for the phone and for the Presenter.
The user will need accompanying Presenter software installed on his or her BlackBerry unit. While I tested Presenter using a BlackBerry Bold 9700 for T-Mobile, the Presenter software should work with any BlackBerry device running BlackBerry OS 4.6 or higher (excluding the unsupported Pearl Flip 8200 and Curve 8300 series). The software is downloadable directly from www.blackberry.com/presenter, or the code can be distributed to enterprise-managed devices through a BES (BlackBerry Enterprise Server) server.
From the Presenter software, I could easily mount a PowerPoint presentation (either PPT or PPTX formats) from on-device storage or the removable MicroSD card. I also verified that enterprise BlackBerry users can mount and present presentations directly from e-mail or calendar attachments. For this latter scenario to work, however, the BlackBerry smartphone must be running OS 5.0 or later, and BlackBerry Enterprise Server 5.0 with Service Pack 1 is required on the back end. Thusly outfitted on both ends of the BlackBerry network, I did not need to change any settings or device profiles to enable this functionality.
Mounting the file into the Presenter software takes from a few seconds to several minutes depending on the size of the file. Once mounted, I could scroll through the presentation slides on the BlackBerry to see if everything shows correctly, although I found that the image on the device can differ from the image shown on the external display. For instance, bolded headline text may show incompletely on the smartphone, while the same text looks fine via the external projector.
To begin the presentation, I needed to select the Present command within the Presenter software, which automatically engages the BlackBerry's Bluetooth radio and locates a waiting Presenter appliance (which supports Bluetooth 2.0 with Enhanced Data Rate) within 10 meters or so. The four-digit Bluetooth security code is automatically displayed via the external display prior to the presentation, simplifying the process of association.
I did find in my tests that with multiple users sharing the Presenter appliance in a series of presentations it may be necessary to reboot the appliance before the second person can associate via Bluetooth.