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.”
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But as with most third-party software for the Blackberry, MetaMessage does not support the phone-enabled BlackBerry 5810.
While RIM released the 5810 last March, it has yet to release the messaging APIs for the device. Sources close to the company said that RIM has been slow to release APIs because the company has its hands full switching from C++, which is the development platform for previous devices, to Java, which is the development platform for the 5810.
“We still have not received the APIs and are not aware that they have released to anyone externally,” said Don Baumgartner, business unit manager for universal mobile connectivity at Extended Systems, in Boise, Idaho, which develops corporate application access software for wireless devices. “It is natural to think that developers would like to support other applications on the RIM platform, but we have not been able to quantitatively discern the demand because of this lack of platform information from RIM. RIM trails CE and Palm as a development platform, but I believe there is potential for them if they make it easier for developers.”
RIM officials said third-party developers are important to the company, but unlike their competitors, they do not necessarily gauge the companys success by developer support.
“If you look at Palm [Inc.] as the example, Ive certainly seen them promote the number of developers, but ultimately the measure of their success had to be devices,” said Mark Guibert, vice president of brand management at RIM, in Waterloo, Ontario. “An important measure of success for us will reside in application development, but ultimately its about productivity.”