Saturday, November 25, 2006

Travel Right with Skip 1.2 for Blackberry

It's been about a year since the first version of the Skip client became available for testing. Targeting connected business travelers, and inspired by the interface metaphor of classic killer Blackberry apps like email, the Skip Blackberry client was heavy on text and light on visual sophistication.

As Blackberry users migrated to the high-density color devices like the 87xx and now the Pearl, Skip started looking a lot like opening Notepad on Windows Vista. But the 1.0 release suffered from the curse of being good enough. No major bug was ever reported for the Blackberry client, and the biggest usability problem by far turned out to be folks having trouble keying in their id and password on the device (not just SureType -- even QWERTY folks have had a lot of trouble, strangely enough).

Meanwhile, 2006 turned out to be a busy year for Skip's 1.5-FTE engineering division: to get the ball rolling we needed to deliver the core Skip server app, minimal web UI, travel industry integration, Java phone client (twice), Plam/Treo client (twice), Windows Mobile (it's in test, so try it now with this OTA install; additional bits you might need install OTA from here and here)... and the Blackberry client never got a proper polishing because it was just good enough never to get to top of the "urgent" list.

So I'm glad to finally offer this substantially touched up Blackberry client to all of our loyal early adopters. Most of the changes are small bug fixes, ergonomics improvements, and UI features which will be self-explanatory to readers of this blog. The only non-obvious change is a power-user mechanism that lets you use the same client to work with a production (www.goskip.com) or test system (peridot.goskip.com) account: in the username field, simply prepend "test!" to your email address (e.g. instead of foo@bar.com, test!foo@bar.com), and the client will operate with the test system.

You may notice some new UI features (like the icons) will only appear via the test server for now, as we'll be doing some additional testing before moving the server code changes into production. ETA is probably a week. Also, the first time the client syncs, it will load up the icons into its local cache, so that first sync may take a little longer than usual, especially over EDGE.

Let me know what you think, and thanks for your patience this, er, um, whole year.

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