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Analyst: touchscreen BlackBerry due February

updated 01:30 pm EST, Thu December 20, 2007

Analyst on BlackBerry 9000

New information has surfaced about Research in Motion's first touchscreen phone as well as a major upgrade to the BlackBerry Pearl, claims a new research note from the financial group GMP Securities. Referred to as "Touchscreen 1.0" in the note but known in online circles as the BlackBerry 9100, the device is shown in a patent schematic that appears to confirm a slide-out QWERTY keyboard underneath a large touchscreen display, letting the phone live up to the company's reputation for messaging while offering a more intuitive interface than the trackball found on 2007 phones.

No other immediate clues are provided about the future phone, though previous reports have hinted at the existence of 3G wireless Internet access, true GPS, and Wi-Fi for short-range networking. It will also have a display with similar resolution to that of the iPhone, which uses a 3.5-inch, 320x480 display.

A second phone, called only the "Pearl 2.0," will bear a strong resemblance to the BlackBerry Pearl 8130 media phone but will reportedly include a unique keypad that can swivel 90 degrees to provide a more comfortable typing environment. The current model is a fixed candybar design.

A search of recent patents from the Waterloo-based company has not immediately revealed the patents in question.

Both devices are still tentative but are most likely to arrive in February -- timed with the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain -- and should have a major impact on RIM's influence in the mainstream market, says GMP analyst Ray Sharma. The BlackBerry has recently enjoyed a lead in marketshare for North American business but only ventured into the ordinary consumer market in earnest late in 2006 with the original Pearl, which offered stronger media playback and a friendlier design than past BlackBerries. About 30 percent of the company's revenue comes from the device category, but this could change if RIM expands into unfamiliar territory, Sharma notes.

The touchscreen market for phones is largely fractured in North America and is led chiefly by modestly successful devices such as the HTC Touch and LG Voyager, which are targeted at entry-level smartphone users and the high end of the feature-limited phone market respectively.

by MacNN Staff



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