Verizon, Sprint, RIM Prep BlackBerry 7 OS Phones for Release

RIM and its carrier partners are ramping up to launch the newest generation of BlackBerry devices running BlackBerry 7 OS.

In one of the few bits of Aug. 15 tech news that doesn't involve the word "Google" or "Motorola," Verizon Wireless is making the BlackBerry Bold 9930 available via its online store, to be followed by an Aug. 25 release in stores.

In a bid to appeal to both consumers and the enterprise, Research In Motion is releasing a host of new devices running the BlackBerry 7 OS. These include the BlackBerry Bold 9900/9930, the BlackBerry Torch 9810 and the BlackBerry Torch 9850/9860. The updated operating system offers faster browsing, smoother navigation, voice-activated universal search and preinstalled applications such as the enhanced BlackBerry Messenger 6.

The BlackBerry Bold 9900/9930 offers a 2.8-inch display with 640-by-480 resolution, a 5-megapixel camera, integrated GPS and NFC (or near-field communication, which can turn your smartphone into a sort of electronic wallet) and 8GB of onboard memory expandable to 40GB. RIM claims the new Bold is its thinnest smartphone ever, although the overall design conforms to the standard BlackBerry "look."

Verizon isn't the only carrier on board with the new devices: Sprint will offer the Bold 9930 and Torch 9850 starting Aug. 21.

However, BlackBerry 7 OS isn't RIM's endgame when it comes to pushing back against the likes of Google Android and Apple's iPhone. The Canadian phone maker, which has seen its market share drop precipitously in the past several quarters due to competitive pressures, will debut a set of QNX-powered "superphones" sometime in 2012. The QNX operating system currently undergirds the company's BlackBerry-branded PlayBook tablet.

But analysts seem skeptical about QNX's chances of reversing RIM's fortunes. "Channel checks indicate that in spite of RIMM's best efforts QNX handsets are still likely to arrive in [the second half of 2012]," Peter Misek, an analyst with Jefferies & Co., wrote in an Aug. 4 note to investors. "It now appears the PlayBook will not be able to run ported Android apps until late fall, later than consensus expected. We believe this is a symptom of resources being diverted from ANX to OS 7."

According to an Aug. 8 posting by the tech blog Boy Genius Report, RIM's first QNX device will be powered by a single-core processor and lack support for the current BlackBerry Enterprise Server. That would further hobble the platform's competitive profile vis-??í-vis its rivals. At the end of May, research firm comScore estimated RIM's share of the U.S. smartphone market at 24.7 percent, lagging behind Android at 38.1 percent and Apple at 26.6 percent.

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