BlackBerry maker Research In Motion Ltd. today unveiled a new version of its top-end e-mail phone for business users, replacing the signature side navigation wheel with a front trackball that first appeared last year on the consumer-oriented BlackBerry Pearl.
The BlackBerry 8800 will be offered in the United States by AT&T Inc.'s Cingular Wireless starting Feb. 21, priced at $300 with a two-year contract commitment.
The new device enters a far more crowded market for multifunction "smart" phones than the 8700 did when it was launched in late 2005. Back then, the main competition was Palm Inc.'s Treo, while lower-priced BlackBerry-like entrants from Motorola Inc., Nokia Corp., and Samsung Electronics Co. had not yet arrived.
RIM is billing the 8800 as the thinnest BlackBerry to date, measuring 0.55 inch from front to back. That's just a hair thinner than the Pearl's 0.57-inch thickness, but 0.2 inch thinner than the 8700 model that the 8800 will replace over time. The 8800 is also a shade narrower than the 8700 from right to left, but slightly taller, the AP reports.
In addition to the usual email and phone capabilities, the 8800 acts as an MP3 player and can store music, video and ring tones with an upgradeable memory card.
There's a Global Positioning System that allows you to enter a location from your address book and have the BlackBerry guide you straight to it.
And if you're not the one doing the driving, you can send a map to someone else using its email.
But there's one thing this model doesn't have and maybe never will - a digital camera. The reason? Business customers let the company know in no uncertain terms they feared it would make the multi-tasking device too prone to corporate sabotage, citynews.com reports.
"It's not that hard to put one in," admits Balsillie. "But it was unambiguous for a dramatic proportion of the mobile professional segment: no camera."
Those addicts who want to get their hands on the latest so-called CrackBerry won't have to wait long for their fix. It should be on the market everywhere by March.
Apple's launch of its new iPhone does not pose a threat to Research In Motion's consumer-geared BlackBerry Pearl and simply marks the entry of yet another competitor into the smartphone market, RIM's co-chief executive said in an interview.
"It's kind of one more entrant into an already very busy space with lots of choice for consumers," Jim Balsillie said of Apple. "But in terms of a sort of a sea-change for BlackBerry, I would think that's overstating it."
Balsillie made his comments as Waterloo, Ontario-based RIM launched the slimmest BlackBerry thus far. Known as the 8800, the new model is a full-keyboard device equipped for the first time with a built-in global positioning system, Reuters reports.
Prepared by Alexander Timoshik
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