Sunday, December 10, 2006


RIM Goes Prosumer with Pearl

Research In Motion Ltd takes its boldest step yet to take its BlackBerry products beyond the boardroom, launching the Pearl, a 2G-2.75G smart phone for the GSM world with a 1.3Megapixel camera and an MP3 player, a microSD slot and a central trackball instead of a thumbwheel, weighing in at just 89 grams.

The Waterloo, Ontario-based developer is, of course, best know for its iconic BlackBerry devices in the hands of business types, with some 5 million subscribers for its services around the world. It dominates that high end of the market, try as Good Technology and now Microsoft might to dislodge it.

However, if such devices are the Rolex of push email, BlackBerry clearly sees the potential to move down, at least to the level of the designer-label watches, if not the cheapo plastic models of the Great Unwashed. It is at this tier directly outside the boardroom, which Charmaine Eggberry, its VP and MD of EMEA referred to as "prosumer/consumer", that the new BlackBerry 8100, a.k.a. the Pearl, is targeted.

In presenting the phone in London yesterday, COO Larry Conlee said RIM's carrier customers had been more concerned for it to be a quad-band GSM, with support for 2.5G (GPRS) and 2.75G (EDGE) and a camera than they had for it to support 3G. Style, as well as traditional BlackBerry substance, was clearly also a key criterion in its design, and RIM execs never tire of repeating its claim to be the smallest and lightest smart phone on the market.

There are no details available as to which carriers will be offering the device and RIM was careful to power advance copies with SIM cards from a variety of its usual customers, but clearly a number of suspects come to mind in all the main countries.

As to the services it will offer, Eggberry said RIM expects carriers to focus heavily on the recently launched BlackBerry Internet Service (BIS) for pushing Webmail, or else perhaps the Express version of its BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) designed for small businesses, rather than the full-blown BES, even though it can be integrated into a normal BES deployment.

Pricing too will depend on how highly the carriers want to subsidize the phone.

Conlee said a CDMA version of the 8100 will be out in due course, probably in about a year's time, but will have to weigh rather more than the current version. The reason for this is quite simple: as most of the big CDMA networks have already moved to 3G flavours of the access technology such as EV-DO and Rev A, there is a requirement for two radios rather than one, since all 3G phones must also be able to fall back to 2G in areas where 3G coverage is not available.

"That also means you need a bigger battery to run them both, so up goes your weight," he added. The same will also be true for an eventual W-CDMA/HSDPA version of the device, should RIM decide to develop one

Source: CBR Online

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