Balsillie: Demand for Wireless Rising

RIM is moving away from its direct offerings and toward a strict, carrier-centric approach to its services.

LAS VEGAS – As it melds its data services with upcoming voice support, Research In Motion Ltd. is moving away from its direct offerings and toward a strict, carrier-centric approach to its services, according to the wireless vendors chief executive.

"They want to provision and they want to bill," RIM CEO Jim Balsillie said during a keynote session at CTIA Wireless IT here on Wednesday morning. "I would never know how to bill voice anyway."

The shift comes as RIM offcials remain bullish on wireless in the enterprise. Despite financial troubles for wireless carriers, RIM is refuting the notion that all is dire in the world of wireless data services by rolling out new devices for several different networks.

"Its an exceedingly ironic time because what is seen is dramatically different from reality," said Balsillie in an interview with eWEEK in advance of the show here.

"The preconditions are in place," Balsillie said. "The question is whether the preconditions are in place for a significant [return on investment.] My answer would be a resounding yes."

IT professionals seem to agree that the promise for wireless services is better now than it was a couple of years ago when the industry was hyping WAP (wireless application protocol), the basis of many wireless browsers.

"The things we tried to do a few years ago are finally happening now," said Joseph Ferra, chief wireless officer of Fidelity Investments Inc., who joined Balsillie on stage.

RIM today announced shipment of the 6710, a BlackBerry device that runs on the GPRS (general packet radio service) 2.5G network and supports both voice and data. Both T-mobile and AT&T Wireless Services plan to offer the 6710. The device follows the 5810, a data-only GPRS e-mail pager that is shipping now. RIM also continues to ship devices that run on Cingular Wireless Inc.s Mobitex network, a precursor to GPRS that enabled push-based e-mail solutions before 2.5G networks existed.