In addition to the push technology discussed earlier, a BlackBerry requires a variety of sofware on the handheld unit itself and on servers and desktops. The devices are part of a network that includes handhelds, handheld software, desktop software and server software.
The BlackBerry unit uses a proprietary BlackBerry operating system and usually includes e-mail, Web browsing, instant messaging and personal information management (PIM) software. Third-party developers have created a wide variety of other programs for the BlackBerry, like games and productivity applications.
Other third-party programs are customized applications that let people get data and updates from proprietary sales, data collection and other business software. Many of these use a browser interface and e-mail messages for data retrieval. Users get an e-mail message with a link they can click to make a phone call, view data or log in to a service. SSL and TLS encryption protect information and data.
Since a BlackBerry has less memory and processing power than a computer, each of these programs has to be relatively small and efficient. Web pages have to be simple and not rely on frames or applets, and they're most effective when they use minimal colors. BlackBerry developers use a Java development environment that lets them simulate a BlackBerry and make sure their programs are compatible.
Businesses that employ multiple BlackBerry users often use the BlackBerry Enterprise Server software to manage each BlackBerry's connection with the corporate network. The software runs behind the corporate firewall, and pushes information to the handheld units. System administrators can also use the server-side software to update BlackBerry units wirelessly.
Individual users can run BlackBerry Desktop Redirector software on their computers, which plays the same role as the Enterprise Server but on a smaller scale. The Desktop Redirector sends information in small pieces so it doesn't overload the person's connection or deliver unnecessary information to the BlackBerry. The computer has to be on and running in order for the redirector to work.
Read on for lots more information about PDAs, smart phones, the BlackBerry patent dispute and other topics.