RIM Offers BlackBerry Reference Designs

Research In Motion Ltd. is planning to offer the reference designs for its BlackBerry pagers to other manufacturers.

Research In Motion Ltd. is planning to offer the reference designs for its BlackBerry pagers to other manufacturers, the company announced Thursday.

RIM, of Waterloo, Ontario, will provide both the software and hardware necessary to build wireless phones and other handheld devices based on embedded BlackBerry and Java technology, officials said.

As part of the program, chip maker Analog Devices Inc. plans to provide licensees with an integrated processor, based on its SoftFone architecture, that supports both wireless communications and Java applications on a single chip. This processor is already in the BlackBerry 5810, a combination phone/text messaging device that RIM introduced in March, which runs on the GSM/GPRS wireless network.

The reference design "is the same guts as the 5810," said Jim Balsillie, chairman and co-CEO of RIM. "Weve been in market with this with customers for a couple of months. … The program is well under way and the customers are clearly identified."

Balsillie declined to say whether any companies have licensed the design yet, but he predicted that the first non-RIM products based on the design would be out by the end of the year.

RIM has established the BlackBerry as the premiere e-mail pager for corporations in North America, but with the adoption of "always-on" next-generation wireless networks, several other hardware companies have followed suit with devices that support both voice and e-mail functions. The simple plan is that such companies will decide to use designs based on the Blackberry platform rather than designs that compete with it. Its a common business model in the handheld industry. Both Palm (now Palmsource Inc.) and Microsoft Corp. license their handheld operating systems to several hardware vendors.

RIM intends to keep building its own Blackberry devices in addition to becoming a licensing company.

"This is a strategic augmentation, not a strategic shift," Balsillie said.

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