Brian, a good pal of mine, is a big show-off. Every time I meet him for spicy Hunan food, he brags about his Blackberry 7100, and how cool it is to be able to manage his email on the go, and calendaring and all that stuff. Given that his company has an exchange server, and can afford to put a Blackberry exchange server, he has a reason to feel a trifle smug.
I have been looking for a wireless solution that would help me over come my Internet Anxiety Disorder and get a better handle on my in-box and cluttered and confusing calendar. Well, one could switch to Windows, and get Blackberry to do wonderful things, but that is a last ditch option. Having said that, I was still wondering how to make Siemens SX-66 WiFi/GPRS Pocket PC phone play nice with my Mac. (Sure I could use Pocket Mac’s delightful product but that would be mostly static synchronization. Same with Mark/Space’s PocketPC-to-Mac utility.)
What I really wanted was one email account where all answered emails, sent emails and that sort of stuff remained in one place. Having contemplated this for a while, I signed up for hosted exchange, and Good wireless email from a small New Mexico start-up, Desk optional. It is one of the few places that offer hosted Good wireless email.
The package costs, $59.95 every month for a wireless-enabled mailbox, $24.95 for a plain one. There are no setup fees and no contract. Everything is included: access from as many mail clients as you need (including web access), anti-spam and anti-virus, and (most importantly) support.
Within minutes of signing up for the service, I got an email with all the instructions. I fired up the PocketIE, downloaded the Good wireless client and in less than 20 minutes was checking/sending email from my new-hosted email box. I tried it on Treo 600, and Treo 650, and the service worked seamlessly without a problem. (Actually it looks the best on a Treo 650, though I am loath to use the device because of high incidence of dropped calls – it doesn’t happen on Siemens SX-66 or even Treo 600, but 650, for some odd reason misbehaves!
On the desktop side, the most obvious choice was to use Microsoft Entourage, which has a good Exchange support. Well, since all my previous email is in the Apple Mail, I decided Entourage is not a good option, now that Tiger has support for syncing Smart Folders and all. Setting up the exchange account in Mail was not a problem, but given that my Business 2.0 email is hooked to my computer via Exchange, and since Mail.app doesn’t support multiple Exchange accounts, I used the IMAP option.
What about calendaring? I am using Groupcal and AddressX, both mighty fine products from Snerdware to sync my iCal with the hosted exchange account. They use the outlook web access as a way to talk to the Exchange server. Both products work most of the time, though Tiger hasn’t been too kind to these products. I have to manually do the syncing. On Entourage however, these problems don’t exist.
I have been using it for almost a week now, and I have to tell you, my email inbox is getting cleared faster. Still, this is an expensive option: $59.95 for the email service, and another $44 for the PDA access from Cingular – that’s a shade over $100, but worth every penny if you can afford it.