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RIM exec hints 3G, touchscreen BlackBerries

updated 10:05 am EST, Tue February 12, 2008

RIM Hints at Touch BBerry

Research in Motion is developing HSDPA-based 3G BlackBerries and may be developing a touchscreen model, company chief Jim Balsillie said today at the Mobile World Congress show. While stopping short of product details, the official explained that versions of the smartphone with the faster cellular Internet connection should be available in the "near term," giving GSM networks such as AT&T in the US or Rogers Wireless in Canada an opportunity to offer 3G BlackBerries for the first time. Previous 3G versions have been limited to CDMA phone services such as Verizon or Bell Canada, which use the EVDO standard for their 3G access.

Balsillie is likely alluding to the BlackBerry 9000, a QWERTY-keyboard smartphone which should add HSDPA access as well as a larger 480x320 resolution, GPS, and Wi-Fi in a slimmer profile than the relatively thicker BlackBerry 8800 design on sale today.

The executive would not directly confirm the existence of a touchscreen BlackBerry but said that the company was actively investigating forms other than its QWERTY designs or the Pearl's more traditional number pad design. "I think getting religious on packaging is not the way to go," Balsillie said.

Analysts and rumors have both pointed to RIM quietly developing its first touchscreen model with specifications designed to match or beat the iPhone, which recently picked up as much as 28 percent of the smartphone market and is now believed by many to be competing directly with RIM's more consumer-oriented BlackBerry models, such as the Curve and the Pearl. A release had originally been predicted for this month but has since been called into question; the non-touchscreen 9000 is now expected no earlier than May.

by MacNN Staff



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