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BlackBerry Bold 9700
While Android and Apple duke it out, RIM fights to stay relevant

With Android devices gaining ground in the smartphone market, Research in Motion Ltd. -- maker of the BlackBerry -- is looking to hold onto its market share with a few promising new products.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the Canadian firm is testing a new touch-screen BlackBerry smartphone with a slide-out Qwerty keyboard. Judging by the report, the unnamed device sounds like it will sport a capacitive screen with multi-touch capabilities, a 5-megapixel camera, and a built-in search bar -- not exactly earth-shattering considering these feature come standard even on low-end Android devices. The device from RIM will run a new version of the BlackBerry OS software, which includes an updated Web browser. 

The same report also mentions a tablet device -- akin to Apple's iPad -- that would serve as a companion to the BlackBerry. Though the tablet is in early stages of development, WSJ's sources say it could hit store shelves before the end of the year.

RIM still holds the largest share of the smartphone market in the U.S., with a 38% share of smartphones sold in the first quarter of 2010. That number, however, is down from 54% from the same quarter last year. 

News of the company's upcoming devices comes on the heels of a settlement of a long-running legal dispute between RIM and Motorola. A press release from RIM had this to say: 

Under the Agreement, Motorola and RIM will benefit from a long-term, intellectual property   cross-licensing arrangement involving the parties receiving cross- licenses of various patent   rights, including patent rights relating to certain industry standards and certain technologies,   such as 2G, 3G, 4G, 802.11 and wireless email. 

The settlement will allow both companies to cut litigation costs and share patents to the above-mentioned technologies, as well as patents related to application management, user interface, and power management, the International Business Times reports.

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By Syran on 6/15/10, Rating: 0
By yomamafor1 on 6/15/2010 10:27:49 AM , Rating: 3
I don't think they need to. Most Blackberry users are business oriented. Many businessmen found QWERTY keyboard to be much more concise and accurate than touch screen based keyboard.

By DanNeely on 6/15/2010 10:49:09 AM , Rating: 4
It's more than just the keyboard. RIM has gone much farther than anyone else with a modernish phone OS in providing the features that make paranoid corporate IT types feel safe. As long as that remains the case they've got a monopoly on sales to employees of those companies they've got a very large captive audience.

By djc208 on 6/16/2010 12:14:07 AM , Rating: 2
They're also one of the only smart phone manufacturers to offer non-camera versions for those that can't have them. So they not only get the business accounts but the employees as well.

By Mark Kurlyandchik on 6/15/2010 10:29:18 AM , Rating: 2

I think you hit the nail on the head. BES still remains the format of choice for corporate e-mail, and Blackberry Push E-mail tops any other Android-based e-mail service with the exception of Gmail.

But other than that -- and perhaps most Blackberries' durability -- RIM has struggled to innovate. The problem for RIM is that its handsets continue to be designed for the corporate clients it built its name on, but most of these customers want a device that can double as a personal gadget, too.

- Mark Kurlyandchik

By MrFord on 6/15/2010 2:34:48 PM , Rating: 2
Honest question: Could RIM's market share drop be in part because of the drastic expansion of smartphone sales vs a couple years ago? Because while general consumer sales of Blackberry are probably going down with competitors like the iPhone and Android devices, on the corporate side, it must be pretty stable, with possibly an increase in sheer volume of handsets sales compared to previous years.

As you said, BES is IT department' best friend. Especially if you want to make sure corporate phones are not used as personal devices.

I think one of the downside of RIM trying to go mainstream is a pretty steep reduction in quality, both hardware and software. Older BBs were bigger and clunkier, with a steeper learning curve, but they did e-mails like a champ, plus with the scrollwheel, once you knew your way around, they were quick to use.

Now with the smaller form factor, glossy screen and trackball, while they look more modern and are more intuitive, they made the OS even clunkier, slower to operate, plus the keyboard is pretty small to type on and the trackball tends to break pretty fast.

At least they can display HTML e-mails...

By Syran on 6/15/2010 3:04:28 PM , Rating: 2
We hired someone new in the higher corporate area with an iPhone, and had to defend ourselves on why we weren't supporting it. Mostly it was due to the level of security we put both on our mail server, and on the blackberries, and our corporate control. If there was a BB app, which itself could be disabled from the BES, running on some other phone, to allow me that kind of control, and push technology, it could really open up our shop to allow other phones.

Many people went to BBs because they truly were imho, the first true SmartPhone (I remember when they didn't even have phone abilities). Unfortunately, all their innovation just doesn't seem to be up to the level of Google or Apple, mainly because they are a company who makes email devices that do other things.

By kattanna on 6/15/2010 11:14:01 AM , Rating: 2
RIM has also released a free version of BES and is currently working on integrating BES into other mail server software besides just exchange, which will help them get into more small businesses

By rtk on 6/15/2010 3:43:15 PM , Rating: 2
There has long been a free version of BES, used to be called BPS (Blackberry Professional Server).

As well, BES has worked fine with Domino and Groupwise for many years.

By kattanna on 6/15/2010 5:34:40 PM , Rating: 2
yep, but BES is being directly integrated into an email server software that RIM has recently acquired.

By Yawgm0th on 6/15/2010 9:57:38 AM , Rating: 1
RIM still holds the largest share of the smartphone market in the U.S., with a 38% share of smartphones sold in the first quarter of 2010. That number, however, is down from 54% from the same quarter last year.
Where did you get these numbers? This is in contradiction to what I've seen in other DT articles and on actual market research sites.

RE: Figures
By Mark Kurlyandchik on 6/15/2010 10:05:13 AM , Rating: 2
The numbers are taken directly from The Wall Street Journal report cited throughout the story:

The 8th paragraph down:

"The iPhone's mountain of applications, or apps, and slick user experience in particular are enticing new consumers. RIM's share of the North American smartphone market by shipments dropped to 38% in the March quarter from 54% in the year-ago quarter. Apple's share has climbed from 18% to 23% in that same period."

It appears that all the figures cited in the article come from the research firm Strategy Analytics.

- Mark Kurlyandchik

"We don't know how to make a $500 computer that's not a piece of junk." -- Apple CEO Steve Jobs

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