Friday, August 27, 2010
RIM unveils BlackBerry Torch Latest smartphone will help the Canadian technology giant fend off Apple and other rivals
by Madhavi Acharya-Tom Yew (Business Reporter)
The latest BlackBerry smartphone may help Research In Motion grab the spotlight away from rival products and the company’s security disputes in the Middle East.
But it isn’t – and isn’t meant to be – an iPhone killer.
“RIM doesn’t need saving,” said Duncan Stewart, director of research technology, telecommunications and media for Deloitte Canada.There were about 60 million smartphones sold in 2008, and Stewart said that market is expected to reach 600 million in 2014.
“As the market grows, there’s an awful lot of pie for everyone to share,” he said. “It’s not about being an iPhone killer.”
The BlackBerry Torch 9800, unveiled with massive fanfare in New York City on Tuesday, boasts a touchscreen and slide-out QWERTY keyboard. It promises a superior Internet browser and operating system.
Executives also said it offers easier access to apps, the web-based applications that have become the calling card of Apple’s iPhones.
The new BlackBerry 6 operating system also offers an inbox where users can access updates from social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter in the same place as their emails.
“This is one of the most important product introductions in our history. It’s a really special product because so much new goodness has been added to it,” said Mike Lazaridis, RIM’s president and co-chief executive.
Still, the debut met with a yawn in some corners, from analysts who said the device should be enough to help RIM catch up to Apple and devices that use Google Inc.’s Android operating system
“RIM is playing catch-up. This is clearly the upgrade for BlackBerry users, but otherwise not a lot here is super exciting,” Altimeter analyst Michael Gartenberg said.
Shares of RIM fell about 4 per cent in Toronto, with the stock shedding $2.38 to close at $56.77.
“By having a true capacitive touchscreen it will help the BlackBerry Torch to be a good competitor with other touchscreen smartphones,” said a reporter for the website BlackBerry Leaks. “Will the Torch be an iPhone killer? No. However, it is paving the way for BlackBerry to become a true competitor.”
In the U.S, the Torch will be carried exclusively by AT&T.
In Canada, Bell, Rogers, Telus and Virgin confirmed that they will carry the new product. Release dates are expected to be confirmed later this summer.
RIM did not fare well with its touchscreen Storm models, released in 2008.
“They will forever be known as the only devices RIM ever released that were buggy and clunky and not elegant,” said independent technology analyst Carmi Levy. “It put some dents in RIM’s reputation for sterling engineering.”
The Torch is likely the first in a series of big product launches for RIM, observers say.
Levi expects to see the company release a computing tablet – a notion that RIM executives publicly scoffed at less than two years ago. The device, rumoured to be called the “BlackPad,” would compete directly against Apple’s iPad.
But since then, “Apple has proven it’s not just about Smartphones. It’s about building an operating environment that can then be used on different devices,” Levy said.
The tablet may come as soon as the end of this year, he added.
“It’s a matter of blunting the attention that Apple has as the only successful maker of a tablet device,” he said. “RIM has to be seen as a viable alternative well before December, in time for the Christmas shopping season.”
With files from the Star’s wire services
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