Although BlackBerrys offer music downloads, sports updates many game applications, the device is more than just a sleek toy for the digital age. RIM, the maker of the popular mobile smartphone, has partnered with various vendors to develop applications that can help public CIOs and government workers stay up-to-date on current information, assess business analytics, communicate wirelessly with officials, and deliver fast, reliable service to constituents. Here are a few BlackBerry third-party applications, each customized to support a particular public-sector area.

Higher Education: The BlackBerry has software for faculty, staff and students to stay connected, conduct research, update records and collaborate on projects.

Impatica ShowMate is a device that lets users project PowerPoint presentations from their BlackBerry without using a laptop. ShowMate displays all aspects of a presentation, from text and images to animation and slide transition effects.

Public Safety/Law Enforcement: Applications give users real-time access to vital information, helping officials improve responsiveness and service to the public.

ATS Voyager Technology provides secure wireless access to federal, state and local agency databases via the BlackBerry. Officials can conduct warrant checks and searches for stolen property without radioing a dispatcher.

OnPatrol keeps law enforcement officials in touch and secure. The application lets officers receive dispatches, send and receive messages, and access national police databases.

Business Intelligence (BI): CIOs are turning to analytics to improve the delivery and performance of public services. BlackBerry users can extend the power of BI into the mobile work force with dashboards that give timely access to decision-making information.

Cognos 8 Go Mobile analytical tool gives users access to timely, secure and personalized information on their BlackBerry. Key features include the ability to integrate reports, analyses and other BI content into applications and interfaces that everyday users are familiar with.

Webalo Mobile Dashboard Service is a BI service that lets users quickly communicate essential information. Applicable to the government and higher education market, Webalo lets users load and distribute reports regarding inventory status, forecasts and other critical data

Field Service/Inspections: Fieldworkers can now access updates, dispatch information and other important data, increasing productivity and improving customer satisfaction.

Vaultus Mobile Technologies lets fieldworkers access IT help desk applications on their BlackBerry. Users can view and update inventory, revise and create service tickets and perform asset management tasks.

Aeroprise Inc. gives users access to service management applications such as change management, asset management and the help desk through the BlackBerry, Aeroprise increases fieldworkers' the capabilities.

Continuity of Operations Planning Applications: These applications give mobile users access to operations information, thus improving responsiveness to emergency situations in the public sector.

OnSet METAmessage Emergency software lets users store and revise emergency documents, archive PIN/SMS (short message service) and send group messages, keeping officials in contact during a disaster.

Wallace Incident Communicator maintains communication channels during a crisis through chat, PIN and even TV images on the BlackBerry. Ensure that plans, maps and other data are updated so that emergency management workers are prepared.

The bottom line: From updating student records, searching a criminal database, creating a service ticket to sending a group message during an emergency, the BlackBerry has an application to help CIOs get their job done. With the development of these mobile applications for the public sector, BlackBerrys are clearly no longer just an expensive mobile phone; they can form a more sophisticated way of communicating that enhances productivity.

Have a question about your BlackBerry? Talk with other government BlackBerry users at Pinstack and BlackBerry Forums.