August 4, 2010

RIM Unveils New Blackberry Torch

Research In Motion (RIM) on Tuesday revealed its newest mobile phone -- the BlackBerry Torch -- which will take on the popular iPhone and other rivals, but analysts said the handset won't blow away the competition.

Even though the main features of the new phone, including a touch screen and slide-out keyboard, were well-known within the industry, investors showed disappointment, driving RIM's shares down 4 percent.

The Torch is scheduled to go on sale in the USA on August 12 for $199.99 with a two-year contract -- about the same price as the iPhone. The new mobile device uses a revamped operating system and has a faster and easier-to-use Web browser.

RIM will launch the phone in the United States with AT&T Inc, the same carrier that has exclusive US rights to the iPhone. At the launch event in New York on Tuesday, analysts said the Torch does not represent a major advance but does have enough consumer-friendly features to help RIM catch up to rivals.

RIM executives did not make themselves available for questions and comments after the gathering about discussions said to be taking place between countries such as the United Arab Emirates regarding access to data sent using BlackBerry devices.

BlackBerry smartphones can be hard targets for countries that do electronic snooping in the name of national security.

The UAE has said that some BlackBerry services will be suspended on October 11 because they "allow individuals to commit violations" that the country cannot monitor.

In an emailed statement to AFP on Monday, RIM said it was aware some customers were "curious about the discussions that occur between RIM and certain governments" but that such talks were confidential.

BlackBerry security is designed to let business users "transmit information wirelessly while also providing them with the necessary confidence that no one, including RIM, could access their data," RIM said.

Along with the problem in the UAE, investors were worried about tough competition from iPhones and smartphones using the Android operating system developed by Google. BlackBerry remains the most popular smartphone in the US market but figures released this week by Nielsen indicate its dominance is fading and many consumers are buying iPhones or Android handsets.

Some analysts said the Torch's success will depend on how heavily it is promoted by AT&T, which said it collaborated for thousands of hours with RIM. AT&T described the Torch as the best BlackBerry ever but declined to say how much advertising the company will spend on the phone or how it would compare to the amount of money it spends on advertising the iPhone.

"It will be as big a campaign as you've seen in some time," AT&T chief marketing officer David Christopher told Reuters.

Nick Agostino, of Mackie Research Capital, said RIM's success will depend on positive industry reviews and adoption by developers of applications.

The success of the Torch could also rely on RIM's ability to convince software developers to create applications for the device. Analysts say a huge part of the iPhone's appeal is the wide array of applications available for the device.

"Developers want to go where the consumers are and consumers want to go where the developers are. RIM is going to have to tell a very compelling story to attract the first batch of developers," Agostino said.


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