While the BlackBerry Bold has been repeatedly delayed in the United States, I had the opportunity to upgrade to this newest BlackBerry smartphone from RIM last week. Today, I would like to share my thoughts of this much-anticipated model from the perspective of an IT professional.

My focus will be on areas specific to system or network administrators — aspects that are not typically touched on by reviews from gadget sites. Hopefully, some of my observations will prove useful to enterprises that are planning to acquire the new devices when they do finally get released in the United States.

Enterprise activation for BlackBerry Bold

Previously, I was using the BlackBerry Curve connected to a BlackBerry Professional Software (BPS) back-end. The BPS is essentially a stripped-down BES, or BlackBerry Enterprise Server. I needed to perform an “Enterprise Activation” to switch to the Bold and was able to do so without any glitches. For more information pertaining to the differences between the BPS and BES, you may want to look at this chart.

After the simple activation procedure, practically everything that I would want to retain could be found on my BlackBerry Bold. Even text messages (SMS) were transferred wirelessly from the attached BPS. I did have to reinstall the third-party applications though; since I am the only user, I found no point in provisioning the BPS for automatic software installations.

Do note that despite the BlackBerry registering a speedy 3G connection; it did take over an hour to complete the entire activation process. In the meantime, the battery got rather warm — not uncomfortably so, but noticeable nonetheless. You might want to warn your users about this so that they will not be alarmed. The time required to complete the activation also means executives should avoid switching devices before going into a critical meeting or boarding a long-distance flight.

DataViz’s Documents To Go

Due to the competitive landscape and the increasing expectations of users, RIM has for the first time decided to bundle an office-compatible suite into its smartphones with operating systems version 4.5 and higher. My BlackBerry Bold comes with version 4.6 of the BlackBerry OS and includes DataViz’s Documents To Go suite of software free of charge.

It must be pointed out that the bundled edition of Documents To Go is the “standard” or cut-down version compared to the more full-fledged Documents To Go Professional edition. You can take a closer look at the differences here, but in a nutshell, you will only be able to view and not create new documents (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) with the Standard Edition. For this, a paid upgrade is required to unlock the full functionality. You can get a 30-day free trial of the professional edition before you commit to a purchase though.

And, oh yes, the current version of Documents To Go listed at DataViz is version 1.002, which is a more recent version than what came on my Bold. With this in mind, it will probably make sense to factor in some time to download and upgrade to the latest version of Documents To Go. DataViz offers instructions on how to deploy Documents To Go for BES administrators.

In the event that a large number of users requires office-compatibility, DataViz has a volume licensing scheme ready. Do note that the inherent capability of a BlackBerry to view stripped-down versions of attached documents is retained.

Disparity in BPS and BES feature set

If your organization is running on a BES, then you will be able to immediately tap into the newest features. All that is required is to update to the latest BES service pack, and new features such as HTML rendering of e-mails and the ability to download attachments will be automatically enabled on the BlackBerry Bold.

However, if you are in a small organization — or simply one with fewer BlackBerry smartphones deployed, then there is a high probability that you will be running on the BPS. For organizations running on the BPS, you need to know that certain features, such as the ability to view HTML e-mails and free-busy calendar lookup, is not yet available. Unfortunately, RIM has no official statement on this delay that I am aware of. Things might change before the Bold gets released on AT&T in the United States, but that’s the scenario at this point in time.

Related to the new ability to view HTML e-mails, you might also want to evaluate if the data plan that your organization has subscribed to is adequate. Alternatively, you might want to limit traffic by disabling the download of graphical elements in HTML e-mails. Of course, this ability is obviously not available to BIS-only handhelds.

These are my initial thoughts on the new BlackBerry Bold. As I continue to use it, I’ll follow up with some other issues that I’m investigating.

What are your thoughts on what I have covered so far?