updated 12:05 pm EST, Fri February 29, 2008
Touchscreen BBerry Patent
Plans for Research in Motion to develop a touchscreen BlackBerry have seemingly been confirmed, according to a new patent filing. Originally filed in mid-2006, the application presents a device which clearly includes the BlackBerry's signature trackball navigation but represents a major redesign of the interface: instead of relying solely on the trackball and building the keyboard into the front face, the new design tucks the keyboard into a sliding tray underneath, making room for a larger screen.
The invention can be used with conventional controls and is designed to rotate the interface on its side when the keyboard is extended for messaging mode. However, the new design would also allow for a touchscreen, RIM explains. Depending on the nature of the touchscreen, either a finger or stylus could be used to navigate the interface. This would provide more intuitive control of the phone while still providing the option of physical text input, all without compromising the overal surface area or making accidental keystrokes.
RIM is not under any obligation to use the technology in the patent. However, the specific modeling in the design points to a prototype for a future production device. While the Canadian company has only hinted at non-traditional BlackBerry designs in the future, both analysts and insiders have claimed to be aware of a BlackBerry 9000-series model that would stand as RIM's direct rival to the iPhone but aim at the corporate market's need for advanced messaging features. Most such claims have pointed to the inclusion of GPS and Wi-Fi as well as possible 3G support for HSPA networks, such as those from AT&T or Rogers.
RIM is frequently considered Apple's most direct challenger in the media-friendly smartphone market and, while largely dominant in the workplace, has just recently been edged out in the home user base in terms of desirability and marketshare by Apple's first cellular device, according to studies.