09-02-2004, 05:13 PM
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| | [09-02-2004] RIM to launch new e-mail device
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Research In Motion Ltd. may soon be adding a little "Charm" to its line of popular BlackBerry devices. |
The Waterloo-based company, the country's highest-valued tech firm behind Nortel Networks Corp., is scheduled to make a major product announcement for the U.S. market next week, leading to speculation that a new consumer device, code-named Charm, will finally be unveiled after months of internal testing.
Rumours of the product first surfaced in May and a picture claiming to be the new device began floating around the Internet several weeks ago.
"A new driver will soon be introduced with the launch of the new mass-market consumer product," GMP Securities analyst Ray Sharma wrote in a recent research note foreshadowing an announcement.
The BlackBerry is widely used by business professionals, politicians and celebrities who enjoy having a mobile phone and instant wireless e-mail in a single product. RIM expects to have about 2 million subscribers by the end of this year ó driven by strong growth in Asia ó after reaching the 1 million milestone in February.
A mass-market device would dramatically accelerate growth, analysts said.
The new Charm device appears to be two-thirds the width of a typical BlackBerry and its design makes it more practical as a mobile phone, similar in many respects to the Treo 600 Smartphone by PalmOne Inc.
The Treo 600 is more stylish and less awkward to hold than the BlackBerry when used as a phone. It's also quad-band, meaning it works over a number of different frequency bands giving it "world" roaming capabilities.
The Treo 600 was called a "BlackBerry-basher" when launched last fall, and Bell Mobility on Tuesday became the second Canadian wireless carrier to begin selling the device. Insiders at RIM are touting Charm as a more affordable "Treo-killer," sources said.
The picture circulating on the Web shows a device with a condensed keypad that's presumably aided by "predictive-texting'' software that guesses words as they are typed. If true, Charm would be the first device from RIM that puts greater emphasis on the phone function and strays from the standard "QWERTY" keyboard format, a hallmark of the BlackBerry.
"I'm guessing it's a low-cost device geared to teenagers," said Barry Richards, a wireless analyst with Paradigm Capital Inc. in Toronto. "It's a whole new form factor."