For users, life without ‘Berry black indeed
AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORESanta Anita opens winter meet Saturday with loaded card It’s hard to tell how much he is exaggerating. Koretz, who says he leads a busy but disorganized lifestyle, is totally dependent on his BlackBerry. Through it, he receives schedule updates from his staff, returns e-mails in the middle of legislative hearings, maintains a to-do list, checks the calendar and talks on the BlackBerry’s cell phone function. Like many unrepentant addicts, he even takes it on vacation. “I’ve found these things to be a lifesaver,” Koretz says. “It’s probably the best thing I’ve ever purchased. “It would ruin my life now, I’m so dependent on it, to lose the BlackBerry. I’m surprised I don’t use it in my sleep.” Virginia-based NTP Inc. is suing Research In Motion Ltd., the Canadian-based manufacturer of the BlackBerry, for patent violations, claiming it was first to develop the technology that runs the devices. SACRAMENTO – There are a few nervous folks around the Capitol these days, and it has nothing to do with the budget, taxes or infrastructure proposals. They are BlackBerry addicts – constant users of the wireless e-mail devices who have become so attached to reading and thumbing messages on their tiny keyboards that they can’t imagine life without them. So a pending patent-court case against the manufacturer of the BlackBerry has some in the halls of government concerned they may be about to lose their gadget – addicting enough to have earned the nickname “CrackBerry.” “I sometimes wonder whether the Earth will continue to spin on its axis if the BlackBerry suddenly stops functioning,” says Assemblyman Paul Koretz, D-West Hollywood, a constant BlackBerry user. Absent a monetary settlement, NTP is seeking an injunction to shut down the service in the United States for most users. A trial judge has set a Wednesday deadline for both sides to file legal documents in NTP’s injunction request. But the BlackBerry manufacturer argues the service should not be shut down, because it provides critical government communications in situations such as Hurricane Katrina and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks – when cell phone service was disrupted, but BlackBerries continued to function. NTP has sought to reassure government and emergency users that an injunction would exempt them, but the BlackBerry manufacturer says it would be difficult, if not impossible, to separate such users for an exemption – which could include up to 1 million people in tens of thousands of federal, state and local agencies, as well as government contractors and nonprofit agencies such as the Red Cross. Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Sherman Oaks, says he doesn’t leave the house – or the House of Representatives – without his BlackBerry. “I have no memory of my life without BlackBerry,” Sherman says. He checks it constantly on the House floor, in the hallways and in the hearing rooms. He receives frequent security alerts – the Capitol police notify all lawmakers and staffers with evacuation notices when suspicious packages are discovered, and another message when the package’s contents are revealed. Sherman also keeps his schedule on his BlackBerry and finds himself regularly checking to see if his staff has made any changes. While it is likely a court order will not apply to federal use, Sherman says he doesn’t even want to contemplate life without a BlackBerry. “I guess I would have peace and quiet and hours of time when I was immune from getting e-mails,” he says. “I assume I would be a more relaxed person.” The state Department of General Services, which oversees state purchasing, last estimated that about 2,100 employees use state-issued BlackBerries – but that figure was from a year ago and has been increasing rapidly, DGS spokesman Matt Bender said. The state spends about $1.2 million a year on BlackBerries, as well as competing devices such as the Treo. Bender said his department is monitoring the lawsuit and stays in touch with its suppliers on the issue. If worst comes to worst, he noted, “in a pinch you can still call someone on their cell phone; you can still send e-mail from your desktop.” Jack Gold of J. Gold Associates, a Massachusetts technology consulting firm, recently estimated it would cost employers about $845 per worker to replace the BlackBerries if they are shut down. The figure includes not just the cost of buying new devices, but new software, lost productivity and other factors. All state legislators and a handful of senior staffers are eligible for taxpayer-funded BlackBerries. But a few rebel technophobes have been issued state BlackBerries and declined. “There’s a backlash of people who have been turning them in,” said Greg Schmidt, executive officer of the Senate Rules Committee, which administers their distribution. “Some people are not particularly computer-oriented and they don’t think much of them.” Assemblyman Keith Richman, R-Granada Hills, declines to carry a Blackberry, saying his staff always knows where he is and can reach him on his cell phone. The devices, he says, can be a distraction. “I don’t think I need a BlackBerry to remain connected and be able to communicate,” Richman says. “I check my e-mails routinely throughout the day. My staff routinely knows where I am just about every minute of the day and can reach me. When I’m in meetings or committee hearings, I’m trying to focus on what’s going on at the time.” That’s unthinkable to most users. Crystal Strait, press secretary for Assemblyman Lloyd Levine, D-Van Nuys, confesses to being “totally addicted” to her BlackBerry, which she pays for herself. How often does she use it? “It’s easier to ask how often do I not use it,” she says laughing. “I’ve been in situations where it’s gone down for half a day.” Strait pauses, and sighs heavily. “Oh … I don’t like to think about it.” Staff Writer Lisa Friedman contributed to this report. Harrison Sheppard, (916) 446-6723 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!