RIM May Take on Apple With New BlackBerry Bold

Monday, 12 May 2008 | 10:46 AM ET

Research In Motion is launching a new high-end version of the BlackBerry aimed at its core base of business users, but it hopes the sleek device will also catch on in the broad retail market.

blackberry bold 9000
blackberry bold 9000

Shares of RIM jumped on Monday, climbing C$6.20, or 4.7 percent, to C$139.55 on the Toronto Stock Exchange shortly after the opening bell. In New York, RIM was up $5.99, or 4.5 percent, at $138.76.

The BlackBerry Bold, as the new smartphone is called, is the first BlackBerry to support high-speed HSDPA cellular networks and comes with integrated GPS, Wi-Fi and a host of multimedia features.

"It's really a step up in function in many core aspects of the system," RIM Co-CEO Jim Balsillie said in an interview.

The smartphone rolls out globally this summer and will cost between $300 and $400. AT&T will be its lead carrier in the United States.

While Waterloo, Ontario-based RIM hopes the Bold will entice corporate users to upgrade the handsets they currently use, Balsillie said he "wouldn't be surprised if it gets picked up by the consumer."

Blackberry's Bold
RIM unveils its first major new Blackberry model in more than a year, with Jim Suva, Citi Investment Research

The device will be a test of whether the shaky U.S. economy is making corporations less willing to spend on new wireless hardware. Some analysts have expressed concerns that companies will delay upgrades or cut back on spending on items such as the BlackBerry.

RIM helped dispel such worries last month when it delivered a higher fourth-quarter profit and a robust outlook.

The Bold features the most vivid display ever on a BlackBerry, a 2-megapixel camera with video recording capability, and a media player for watching movies and managing music collections.

This isn't the first time a BlackBerry has been loaded with multimedia features to catch the eye of the retail customer. RIM has actively worked at diversifying its client base away from the executives, lawyers and other professionals who use the BlackBerry for sending secure wireless e-mail.

More than a third of RIM's 14 million subscribers are now classified as nongovernment and noncorporate.

This pursuit of consumers has put RIM in increasingly direct competition with devices such as Apple's iPhone which target the broad consumer market.

Still, Balsillie said the Bold is aimed first and foremost at the business, or enterprise, audience.

"It's pretty fair to say that the Bold does quite a job for cementing our leadership in the (enterprise) side," he said. "We understand our roots and we understand the priority there."

RIM also announced that, along with Royal Bank of Canada and Thomson Reuters , it will launch a $150 million venture capital fund that will invest in applications and services for the BlackBerry and other mobile platforms.

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