RIM Begins BlackBerry Bold Release

Apple's iPhone 3G is about to be challenged by RIM's new BlackBerry Bold, the mobile and wireless device maker's first 3G offering. While solidly holding on to its traditional business market share, RIM hopes to slice into Apple's iPhone 3G sales by offering the new BlackBerry Bold with a set of consumer-oriented features including a 2-megapixel camera with video recording capability, a music player, GPS and Wi-Fi.

iPhone, iPhone, iPhone: That's all Research In Motion heard throughout July as Apple's media blitz over its first iPhone 3G mobile device dominated the news. But that was July, and RIM on Aug. 7 began firing up its own campaign to promote the BlackBerry Bold, the company's first 3G phone, originally announced May 12.

With high hopes of grabbing a share of Apple's booming retail market, RIM introduced the BlackBerry Bold in Germany and Austria with plans to hit the Indian market by midmonth. The Canadian and American versions of RIM's new smart phone are expected within the next few weeks.

Already the dominant maker of smart phones for business users, RIM has loaded the new BlackBerry with a number of consumer attractions, including a 2-megapixel camera with video recording capability, a music player, GPS and Wi-Fi.

"The BlackBerry Bold is a breakthrough smart phone for both professional and personal use," Don Morrison, RIM's chief operating officer, said in a statement.

Added RIM Vice President of Corporate Marketing Mark Guibert, "The BlackBerry Bold smart phone delivers an amazing combination of functionality, performance, usability and design, making it an ideal choice for business professionals and power users."

And, no, the new BlackBerrys do not incorporate the iPhone's touch-screen keyboard, instead opting for a Chiclet-type QWERTY keyboard combined with a half-VGA LCD display (480 by 320 resolution at 217 ppi). The BlackBerry Bold runs on a next-generation 624MHz processor and is the first smart phone to support tri-band HSDPA (High-Speed Downlink Packet Access) and enterprise-grade Wi-Fi (802.11 a/b/g) networks. The device also includes 1GB of internal storage memory and a MicroSD/SDHC expansion memory slot.

"The BlackBerry Bold smart phone perfectly combines state-of-the-art communications and multimedia functionality, attractive design, high-speed Internet access and an intuitive user experience, making it the perfect smart-phone solution," gushed Hannes Ametsreiter, a senior executive vice president of Mobilkom, the Austrian carrier that is partnering with RIM.

RIM also announced a deal with Microsoft in May to offer Windows Live Hotmail and Messenger on all BlackBerry smart phones, edging RIM even closer to the consumer market. Messenger users will be offered a full range of peer-to-peer messaging, including the ability to save messages, customize status messages, use avatars and use more than 60 emoticons.

RIM and Apple are eyeing each other's handsome market share, but Tony Rizzo, an analyst with The 451 Group, said in May that RIM can expect more success in the consumer market than Apple can in the enterprise space.

"RIM is no longer a mobile office [and] e-mail player. It has evolved into a deeply embedded enterprise vendor, and we continue to push this as the key differentiator," Rizzo said. "So, while Apple, Nokia, Motorola and now HTC Corp. continue to compete on enterprise hardware designs, they cannot stack up to RIM in terms of the enterprise ecosystems RIM has in place."

Rizzo added, "This remains a crucial difference that will make competition here almost meaningless."

On the consumer side, Rizzo said, the landscape is more competitive.

"The battle for higher-end consumers has escalated significantly. The next iPhone will boast 3G and may get out the door before the Bold, but it will be quite interesting to see how the Bold does as a prosumer device," Rizzo said. "Our view remains that RIM and Apple are 'market-complementary' and that each will continue to find its own set of users."