BlackBerry Gains Web, Printing Enhancements

Onset readies a new version of MetaMessage that adds new printing capabilities and one-touch Web access to BlackBerry.

Wireless application developer Onset Technology Inc. next week will introduce a new version of its MetaMessage application that adds new printing capabilities and one-touch Web access to Research in Motion Ltd.s BlackBerry handheld devices.

MetaMessage Version 4.0 lets users go to a specific Web page or do a Google search without actually launching a browser. It also adds network printing capabilities to the fax printing capabilities that previous versions of the software supported, said officials at the Santa Cruz, Calif., company.

In addition, the software includes better support for viewing attachments than did previous versions, including the ability to view tiny replicas of Microsoft Excel documents. Rich-text-format files such as Microsoft Word and PowerPoint presentations appear similar to their original format, with bold characters and bullet structure intact.

Onset Technology has provided the ability to view e-mail attachments on the BlackBerry since last year. The software sits on a separate server from the RIM BlackBerry server, though, which means spending additional money. MetaMessage, which works in conjunction with, rather than instead of, the BlackBerry server, costs $3,000 for a 20-user license and $50 for each additional user. Onsets customers say its worth it to pay for the third-party applications, though, as RIM will not offer the ability to view attachments with its own server software until the end of this year.

"RIM only will transmit the message; it does not handle attachments yet, and a lot of our attorneys deal with documents," said Eva Steiner, director of information technology at Dewey Ballantine LLP, a New York-based law firm that uses about 250 BlackBerry devices worldwide. "The ability to open the documents and read them on the BlackBerry and also direct them to the fax machine and get a hard copy was very important. From the first couple of weeks [of using the BlackBerry devices] the attorneys clamored for it. Even when RIM comes out with this ability, it will be in its infancy stages and probably will have lots of bugs. It would take me at least a year even to consider it. You know what they say about Version 1.0."