Sometimes working in IT you find yourself propped up by cans of Red Bull in front of a screen you have been staring at for 10 hours, and it’s 3am. You have an entire company asleep who will be surfacing in a few hours and the first they will do is check their email. It is hard (almost impossible in fact) not to use answers riddled with sarcasm when someone tells you “My Blackberry isn’t working” after you have been awake for 24 hours trying to fix them.
The screen you are staring at has the same data and values it did 12 hours ago, when everything was working – but now, it doesn’t. How can that be I hear you ask? Well, let me tell you about Blackberry Enterprise Software (BES) and how much of a complete nightmare it was, and sadly, still is.
Blackberry’s USP was that they route all mail over their own secure platform, and this was at a time before smart phones so business users had little choice if they wanted email on a mobile device – the Nokia (who?) equivalent at the time was pretty terrible. So, the business world jumped on the Blackberry wagon and pretty soon everyone had to have one.
“Take it out of the box and just ask your IT guys to set it up” Incredible, sounds like a really easy process! And it was, when it actually worked. The BES platform was software you installed alongside your mail platform and then it easily integrated and worked really well, oh hang on – no it didn’t, not at all. Of the 30 or so BES installations I was involved in, I think we had issues with most of them of at some point. And even when you did get it working, this was far from the end.
People would queue up at the IT dept door, handsets in hand, and half of them would activate immediately and start working – but the other half (which were identical) didn’t work, and offered little explanation as to why. The BES software was (and still is) useless at helping you out with anything, apart from taking hours of your life away and making you throw things at walls.
So, you got it working, everyone is dotted around hundreds of bars showing off their cool new BB and you can now go home and relax. Wrong. Overnight Microsoft released a minuscule update to the mail platform, which then takes down the entire BES service – cue the aforementioned proud BB owners are again stood at the IT dept door, but looking nowhere near as excited. So, the next six hours are spent comparing files and file versions (MFC42.DLL for those IT people reading) and then begins the checking of every setting and running the various BB troubleshooting tools they provided (because they knew it was so hideously bad). So, you have had a steady stream of annoyed users giving you verbal abuse all day and its now 11pm and it still isn’t working – then hang on, all of a sudden – its works! Errrr, hang on – what did we actually change?
Now, I realise of course that anyone unaware or unfamiliar with BES could well be reading this saying “sounds like you don’t know what you’re doing” and you know what, with BES, we didn’t – and the truth is hardly anyone did. It was the most ridiculously packaged piece of software I have ever had the misfortune to work with. What solved an issue the week before didn’t work this time round, and here we go again, another 4am finish. So what of the product support from the manufacturer, Research In Motion (RIM)? I’m afraid that even if you did pay the horrendous support fees their support was terrible, often as confused as you were that everything “looked right”. Americans don’t get British sarcasm at all, so when they ask “hey Tom, how are you today” at 4am GMT and you reply “yeah, I’m bloody brilliant” they actually think you are.
I never got it, the handsets were (and still are) terrible. The main argument being people could send email without looking, mmmm, not too sure that’s such a great thing and look around now – clearly not something good enough to last. Nasty cheap little devices with pathetic screens and functions, they always reminded me of playing snake on my Nokia 6110 in 1996 – which says a lot. The handsets never made sense, the logic and menus were poor and they moved everything so often within these menus you had to be a genius to find things. For example, out of the box the default setting for mail was NOT to hide items you had already filed in your Outlook inbox, how is this useful?
During the 90’s I worked my way through every Nokia handset they ever released, and I have a fond nostalgic rose tinted view of these now, but BB? No, never. Never ever. Whilst Nokia never kept up with the smart phone boom, for a long period they were brilliant phones – remember 5-day battery times?! What redeeming feature does a BB have? Nil. None. Zero.
The BB handsets now work using ActiveSync, the same as most other smart phones so their USP isn’t their USP anymore, and the handsets are now hugely shown up as the fraud they always have been.
Even now you see people on trains with a BB and an iPhone and people remain fiercely brand loyal to BB, which I never got – they are terrible devices that even the Third World now refuse to take for free. My advice? Take it out of your pocket, take it back to your IT person and apologise for shouting at them for the last 10 years, shake his hand and then dance with him round the pile of BBs that are on fire on the floor.
BlackBerry’s OS market share in the U.S. currently stands at a dreadful 0.7%, so fingers crossed, we may not have to wait long for them to do the world a favour and call it a day. They are also now saying that they are going to use Android as opposed to BB 10 – so what really is the point of BB anymore?
This says it all:
“Let the record show that Microsoft’s own Windows Phone, which is hardly a dynamo in the modern smartphone market, has a market share that’s four times the size of BlackBerry’s right now.”
I have lost days to this terrible platform, and I know I speak on behalf of a lot of people who work in IT support when I say the BES platform and associated handsets please hurry up and die – you will not be missed.