RIM answers iPhone frenzy with BlackBerry Bold

Research in Motion launches its most consumer-friendly BlackBerry yet with HSPA capabilities. Why the enterprise doesn’t rule the smart phone market anymore?

The Boldest BlackBerry yet made its North American debut last week, with Rogers Wireless and Research in Motion launching RIM’s first HSPA-capable handset at Rogers’s Canadian headquarters.

“It feels a bit like déjà vu,” said John Boynton, senior vice-president and chief marketing officer with Rogers Wireless, comparing the launch of the BlackBerry Bold to that of recent “iconic” handhelds, Apple’s iPhone 3G and the Nokia N-series.

“We’ve really packed everything into this,” said Patrick Spence, RIM’s vice-president. The Bold features three-band (802.11a, b and g) Wi-Fi support, built-in GPS for location-based applications, a full QWERTY keyboard, full HTML browsing and a media player that’s compatible with Rogers MusicStore and can also synch with Apple’s iTunes.

“The screen is really at the forefront of the experience,” Spence said of the 480-by-320-pixel half-VGA display, which supports 65,000 colours.

But the most significant feature is the high speed packet access (HSPA) capability, which boasts a theoretical capacity of 3.2 Mbps, though in practice it will be slower, according to Spence.

“That really steps it up in terms of the browsing experience you can get, the streaming experience you can get,” Spence said.

RIM announced the Bold in May. It’s release has been hotly anticipated in a season that’s already featured Rogers’ launch of Apple’s iPhone 3G – and accompanying controversy over the rate plans on offer – and Bell Mobility’s release of the Samsung Instinct, touted by observers south of the border as an iPhone killer. The timing appears coincidental; Spence said the Bold has been in development for three years.

And if recent BlackBerry offerings have been packed with more consumer-oriented features – the Bold also boasts a 2.0-megapixel camera and stereo sound – Spence insisted RIM’s Pearls and Curves are seeing solid enterprise adoption, too.

The vision behind the Pearl – RIM’s first bluntly consumer-oriented offering, and the first not to feature a full QWERTY keyboard – was to draw new users to the BlackBerry community, Spence said. And while traditional BlackBerry users might scoff at the non-QWERTY SureType keyboard, equally there are Pearl users with no use for a QWERTY keyboard, Spence said.

Irv Witte, Rogers’ vice-president of business marketing, said for BlackBerry aficionados, the Bold’s appeal goes beyond the consumer functionality. Smart phones are about time savings and improved productivity; the full HTML browser and pre-installed DataViz Documents to Go, which allows editing of Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents, mean the Bold packs “all the stuff you used to have to go back to the office for,” he said.

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