I carry a Blackberry Curve 8300, which has its strengths and weaknesses. The hardware is actually decent, well built, good screen etc. The software, however, is absolutely worthless. It honestly feels like a 1st try beta version. There are random menu items where they’re not needed (example: “call voice mail” option in the camera options menu – why?!?!), and the UI is so un-optimized that despite reasonably powerful hardware, the thing still crawls doing the most basic tasks. One of those basic tasks, which you’d think the curve would be able to do easily is instant messaging. The Blackberry Messenger does work well, but not everybody has a Blackberry – probably for the better. I use AIM and gChat mostly. While there are decent clients for both of these networks, when running either one of them, it causes the rest of the phone to grind to a halt – text takes 5 seconds to come up after you’ve typed it, and it takes till the 4th ring for the os to catch up and allow you to actually take a call. Amazing how they could actually sell a product like this.
To get around the Blackberry’s software shortcomings, I’m using a super nifty website-as-software called Heysan! for IM. It’s an actual website you visit with the built in web browser, and allows you to sign on to all of the major IM networks. It’s completely optimized for mobile, so it loads lightening quick, and doesn’t run any big browser scripts, which the Blackberry always chokes on.
I think Heysan! is a great alternative to installing molasses like software on a mobile devices – especially where space and computing power is at a premium. Let an external computer do the crunching, you get the results. I think Heysan! and other sites (like Meebo), are the beginning of the web-application generation. Google Gears, App Engine, and Open Social are set to drive the shift even faster towards web based computing and applications. Android will be another driving technology. I can imagine running Android on my cell phone, and using a persistent cell connection to run most of the phone apps. When I sit down at my desk at night, I can load up all the same applications from a full web browser, and have instant synchronization. Synchronization wont even be necessary, since i’ll be working with the same applications and databases from everywhere.
Regarding the eminent release of the new 3G iPhone, the two key factors to drive web-based applications are the fast 3G data connection and open SDK. If Apple can relax, and remain OK with people developing their own applications and portals to run on the iPhone, I believe it will be on the front line of fueling the mobile web-app adoption. Blackberry could contribute, but only if they fix the software issues – a choppy OS is killer.