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ABA TECHSHOW 2008: The Mobile Office: Take Your Desktop in Your Pocket (Mobile Technology Track)

By Mazyar Hedayat | Monday, March 17, 2008


Presenters: Brett Burney and Dominic Jaar
Saturday, March 15 at 8:30 am

It turns out I already knew one of the speakers at this seminar. Dominic Jaar works at Bell Canada and has been a correspondent of mine on FaceBook for a while.

Brett Burney started us off with a joke and led seamlessly into Dominic's first demonstration: sending a presentation to the projector wirelessly via his BlackBerry. That was met with a well-earned round of applause, and was a great way to demonstrate what this session was all about — remote control, mobile style.

With that, the panel launched into the meat of the presentation: an assessment of what was out there for the road warrior. The discussion focused on the most popular and powerful hand-held multi-task devices:

Treo (and Palm)


According to Dominic Jaar the Blackberry is the "default phone" for mobile lawyers. Device manufacturer Research in Motion (RIM) provides a number of ways in which users can make BlackBerry their own and enhance productivity including:

1. Customizing the look and feel.

2. Customizing the ring tones.

3. Full suite of built-in options.

4. Gaggle of 3rd party applications.

BlackBerry presentation tools such as the one demonstrated by Dominic include:

BBScreenStream (real-time stream and record)
Jl_Cmder (wiping out sensitive information)

Joining a user community can also enhance and extend the BlackBerry experience. Some of Dominic's favorites include:

BlackBerry Cool
Berry Review

If you're going mobile then you've got to use digital dictation. Regardless of the system you choose the idea is to record and send wirelessly. Dominic uses a combination of RDM Plus, VR+, and Dragon NaturallySpeaking to dictate and send documents directly to his desktop for later editing or right to his secretary/assistant for real-time productivity.

Speaking of documents, BlackBerry does not use the Microsoft Office suite. Instead RIM has prompted a number of third party vendors like e-Office whose products allow you to create and even edit documents on the fly. You can send the output wirelessly to a Bluetooth enabled printer or fax machine.

In fact honest-to-goodness mobile lawyering requires Bluetooth in abundance: from phones and ear pieces to printers and computers. This means that you can skip the bulk by using peripherals wherever you are as long as you have plenty of onboard storage (such as a 2 GB memory stick) or are "tethering" — that is, constantly connected to a virtual private network (VPN) at the office. But the real advantage to tethering is when you start with an unlimited data plan then use your BlackBerry as a modem to interact with the VPN and its members. For now tethering is a large-firm technique but as costs come down its use will continue to grow.

When it comes to saving money and making the BlackBerry (or any mobile solution) affordable, it's hard to beat solutions that use voice over IP (VOIP) to replace toll-calls with calls via fixed-fee data plans (often at a fraction of regular cell service).  Such applications include:

Iskoot (best — as it uses Skype)

BlackBerry's email capabilities are legendary, but dealing with voluminous mail is another story. To cleanly and painlessly review reams of email (or just check your messages from a week ago), Dominic recommended:


Google is Here and BlackBerry May Never Be the Same

While its suite of lightweight applications is ideal for the BlackBerry, Google was long rumored to be coming out with its own mobile "phone." That is, until it turned out that rumors of the gPhone had been greatly exaggerated and the real deal turned out to be "Android," Google's mobile platform designed to allow innovative small companies to create applications (much like RIM has done with BlackBerry itself).

Compare Apple's proprietary iPhone and its recent release of its software development kit (SDK) to developers to Google's commitment to open standards. Despite the cachet of the iPhone, Google and RIM may take the day — consider Google's current mobile platform — maps, mail, documents, calendar, RSS reader, the so-called Google Mobile Updater (really an all-in-one update), mobile search, and more.


Palm has been around the longest and is responsible for the beloved Treo line of smartphones such as:

Treo 680
Palm Centro [highly recommended]

One interesting note about Palm-enabled devices is that they can connect to the Internet without having to rely on WiFi by using applications such as those offered by June Networks. Both of these give you a choice of Sprint/Verizon or AT&T and, like all devices running the Palm operating system (OS), integrate with Palm Desktop as well as Outlook.

Of course Palm Desktop has become a bit of a dinosaur. It was the company's attempt to create a proprietary personal information manager (PIM) but was virtually abandoned in the shadow of Outlook. Just as well though, since it turns out that the ability to send and receive email is what really drives the popularity of mobile handsets and operating systems (hence BlackBerry's reign). In short, PIM RIP.

As for documents on Palm, users appear to be more interested in viewing them than composing them. The speaker's choice in this department was "Documents to Go" from DataViz, which opens all Microsoft Office documents including Office 2007 documents, as well as PDFs.

When it comes to email, for large firms, the name of the game is not pull but push. That is, lawyers whose home offices need to send them information want to have the right documents and messages pushed out to them (such as by means of a Microsoft Exchange client). Small-firm and solo attorneys however, generally pull messages, documents, and other information from a server using a POP3 or IMAP format.  In any case, applications of note in this department include

ChatterEmail ["pull" clients — check server]
VersaMail by GoodLink ["push" clients — constant sync]


Short on time, the speakers blew through this part of the presentation and had precious little to say about the iPhone as a business tool in any event, pointing out that use of Apple in the business context remained an open question. They did list the following pros and cons:


• Cannot add memory.
• Cannot replace battery easily.
• Lack of business applications.
• Lack of third party partners.
• Must use iTunes.
• Must use AT&T.
• ATT's Internet access ("Edge") sucks.
• No copy/paste.
• No to-do list.


This section intentionally left blank ... well okay, it's really cool.

The consensus was that having an iPhone was a blast, but using it for business was a chore. Maybe the next-generation iPhone will get it right.

Download Dominic's presentation (ppt).

Read more firsthand reports from ABA TechShow 2008.

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Topics: Email/Messaging/Telephony | Laptops/Smartphones/Tablets | Trade Show Reports
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