Lenovo Uses BlackBerry to Sync Laptop E-mail

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PC maker Lenovo on Monday is expected to announce a partnership with Research In Motion that will make it easier for laptops to synchronize e-mail with servers with the help of BlackBerry smartphones.

Lenovo is providing a hardware and software bundle that allows ThinkPad laptops to sync e-mail with a server using Research In Motion's BlackBerry phone as an intermediary. This is part of Lenovo's new Constant Connect program, which the company plans to announce at the GSMA Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

Through Constant Connect, synchronizing e-mail with servers is a two-step process. First, ThinkPad laptops transfer e-mail back and forth with a BlackBerry using Bluetooth wireless technology. The smartphone then synchronizes laptop e-mail with a server using a mobile-phone network.

This could be useful in certain places like airports where users have to pay for Wi-Fi connections to sync e-mail with servers. This technology does not use Wi-Fi networks, said Rich Cheston, distinguished engineer and executive director at Lenovo. Users may also prefer to see their e-mail on a laptop with a bigger screen and full keyboard rather than on a BlackBerry, Cheston said.

The hardware comes in the form of a PCI Express card with its own radio and storage that plugs into a laptop. A user doesn't need to start a laptop, as the card replicates with a RIM device by drawing its own battery power. The real-time syncing can provide quicker access to e-mail where wireless connectivity is spotty, Cheston said.

Users will also have the ability to sort and get alerts when specific e-mails arrive, Cheston said. "Let's suppose I want to be notified when my wife sends me an e-mail. I could have the card start blinking when the e-mail comes," Cheston said.

The bundle costs US$150 and will be available in the second quarter in the U.S., with worldwide availability scheduled for the second half of this year. It works with BlackBerry devices supporting the operating system 4.2 or later.

On laptops, it works with Windows XP and Windows Vista and supports Outlook or other POP (Post Office Protocol) e-mail clients like Gmail, Cheston said. The company plans to add Lotus Notes support in the second half.

The technology works only with ThinkPad laptops based on Intel's Montevina technology, which the company started shipping in the middle of last year. The package syncs only e-mail for now and plans to add calendar- and contact-synchronizing capabilities later this year, Cheston said.

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