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The Smartphone Challenge FAQ (audio included!)

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Smartphone Challenge

The Smartphone Challenge is bringing a busload full of decked-out BlackBerry to small and medium businesses around Texas. The company in question gets these devices with free airtime, apps, and service for two weeks, after which the Smartphone Challenge tries to take the BlackBerrys back. To date, they haven’t been able to wrestle the handsets from the fevered grasp of these SMBs, but the Smartphone Challenge continues to dare companies to put away a BlackBerry after they’ve spent some quality time with it. The big thing is education – supporting new users and smoothing the learning curve is absolutely essential to increasing adoption.

Here’s everything your company needs to know about the Smartphone Challenge.

Q&A with Smartphone Challenge plus audio behind the jump!

BlackBerry Unite! available to North America

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BlackBerry Unite!Bell launched BlackBerry Unite! back in May, but just recently RIM has begun hosting version 1.1 independently. I don’t think the fact that Bell was hosting Unite! really stopped anyone from giving it a shot, considering there were plenty of other channels to get it outside of the download site, but in case that was an issue for you, you can now head on over to RIM’s BlackBerry Unite! homepage, and get started. Unite! is a free software package that gives small groups of up to 5 BlackBerrys contact, calendar, and media sharing utilities, along with security controls. I was having issues getting the thing set up originally, but maybe it’s time for another go…

Vodafone Australia to offer unified communications

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Vodafone, Cisco and RIM are partnering up to bring a unified communications solution called Vodafone Business One for small and medium businesses sometime later this year. In short, this service will allow your your mobile and landline to share a number and voicemail box, as well as enabling enterprise UMA calling for Wi-Fi calls while you’re in the office area. Solutions like this already exist, but it’s cool to see RIM getting directly involved with one. Who knows? In the long run, maybe fixed-mobile convergence will be just another one of RIM’s base services. I guess that would be their Mobile Voice System. For more info, and one helluva flash site, head on over to Vodafone Business One.

Telus launches voice-based Outlook access

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TelusNow here’s an interesting service. Telus just announced Outlook Voice Access for their hosted Exchange server, which lets users dictate, listen and forward e-mails through their BlackBerry, as well as a bunch of other web-based Outlooky options, like access agendas, documents and contacts. Hosted Exchange is a fine option for SMBs, and this new Outlook Voice Access is some fine icing on the cake. You’re looking at $14/month for the professional plan, plus another $10/month for BlackBerry syncing, but there are a few other BlackBerry voice services through Telus that might be worth looking into. For more details, head on over here.

AT&T offers BlackBerry Professional Software

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Never one to be out-done, AT&T is now offering BlackBerry Professional Software as part of a series of new deals for small business owners. The software comes with the usual array of synchronization and security features, and has recently gotten a small price drop. $499 will buy you a 5-user license and $849 will snag you a 10-user license, up to a maximum of 30 users. You can hit up AT&T at 1-888-296-4561 or via their small business website to get started.

Open-Xchange Server 5 gets BlackBerry client

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SyncJeNexthaus has just announced SyncJe for BlackBerry, letting your handhelds sync up to Open-Xchange Server 5. Open-Xchange is an open source, web-based office client optimized for Linux, and works just dandy with Outlook. SyncJe aims to extend all of its handy office functions like calendars, contacts, e-mail, tasks and document sharing to your handheld. If you’re already set up with an Open-Xchange server, a 15-day trial of SyncJe for BlackBerry is available for download over the air at www.nexthaus.com/bb/syncjebb.jad. The full retail runs for a scant $39.95.