‘The Bold’ Blackberry

Latest high-speed BlackBerry device helps boost TSX to new high

May 13, 2008 04:30 AM                    theboldBlackberry.jpg

Business Reporter

Shares of Research In Motion Ltd. soared nearly 7 per cent yesterday after the wireless email pioneer took the wrap off a new BlackBerry device that had been the subject of leaks and speculation for weeks.

Research In Motion shares gained $8.90 to close at $142.25 – after hitting an all-time high of $143.67 yesterday. RIM’s gains were responsible for 40 of the TSX’s 144.88 point gain. With EnCana Corp., also accounting for 40 points, the two stocks lifted the index to a new record high of 14,666.07.The first BlackBerry to support so-called third generation, or "3G," wireless technology on GSM networks, is expected to be available by "summer 2008," RIM said. Details of the device, including photos and technical specifications, had been leaked in bits and pieces on the Internet for the past few months.

RIM touted the BlackBerry Bold as a "top-of-the-line, high-performance smartphone designed for professionals." It will likely also appeal to consumers, thanks to its camera, video recording and enhanced Web browsing capabilities.

Co-CEO Jim Balsillie said the BlackBerry Bold is evidence that RIM, which claims nearly 40 per cent of its 14 million subscribers are now consumers, hasn’t forgotten its core base of corporate clients and their need for secure wireless email.

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

The unveiling of the BlackBerry Bold comes amid speculation that Apple Inc. is preparing to launch a 3G-version of its consumer-oriented iPhone device in June.

That has led some to wonder whether RIM’s strategy is to first defend its core market of business users before plunging further into the consumer space – perhaps with a similar touchscreen device.

Last week, RIM revealed a potentially important partnership with business management software-maker SAP AG to offer back-end business applications on the BlackBerry platform.

Mike Abramsky, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets, said in a note to clients that the new BlackBerry device is likely to be the first of several new models this year, including a flip phone version of the BlackBerry to compete with devices from Motorola Inc. and Nokia Oyj.

He also said a multimedia-focused "iPhone-killer" could be in the works for later this year.

As for the Bold, Abramsky said it could spark "a healthy mini-product cycle in the U.S., deeper penetration in Europe and Asia, where 3G is competitively available."

Jeffrey Fan, an analyst at UBS Investment Research, said in a note to clients that the BlackBerry Bold is reportedly to go on sale at AT&T Inc. for $300 (U.S.) to $400.

Rogers Communications Inc., the only Canadian carrier with a compatible network, will carry the device for its customers, a spokesperson confirmed. However, no launch date was given.

Rogers recently announced it had a deal with Apple to offer the iPhone in Canada, but has not released details on a launch date or pricing.

Despite numerous reports that suggest RIM is in danger of losing ground to Apple, several analysts have argued that ballooning demand for smartphones means there’s more than enough room for both competitors to grow their market share.

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