RIM Lines Up iPhone Defenses
There's no question that, as Avi Greengart, principal analyst for mobile devices at Current Analysis , puts it, "Everyone needs to take a long hard look at their products in light of the iPhone." But a closer look at the strengths of the BlackBerry and the iPhone, and at the potential audience for the latter, indicates that it's a little early to short-sell RIM.
For one thing, RIM already has in the product pipeline two new products that, for the cognoscenti, are almost as hotly anticipated as was the iPhone.
These would be the BlackBerry 8800 series, a pair of devices codenamed "Indigo" and "Crimson." A few months back the Boy Genius Report posted a preview of the new BlackBerries, complete with PowerPoint slides. According to this info, the new devices will essentially equal the Pearl plus a full QWERTY keyboard -- the Indigo (expected to debut this quarter) without a camera, the Crimson with one. With Cingular Wireless as the initial carrier, the Indigo is now projected to launch in mid-February.
Succeeding the flagship 8700 line of full-width BlackBerries, "the 8800 will essentially integrate much of the multimedia-focused features first introduced on the Pearl into the full-width form factor of the 8700," says Carmi Levy, senior research analyst at the Info-Tech Research Group. "This will make the 8800 class of devices much more palatable to enterprise users, who have been hesitant to switch to the narrower Pearl because of its SureType keyboard."
In other words, while Apple has taken the multimedia functions of the iPod and added messaging capability that's somewhat rudimentary compared to enterprise-class BlackBerries, RIM is gradually adding multimedia snazz to its traditional line of robust messaging devices. The two, in general, are directed at very different users with contrasting needs.
The iPhone is clearly intended for people who want both Apple's elegantly simple phone user interface and a full fledged media experience -- and are willing to pay for the privilege," remarks Greengart. "IT managers can completely lock down the Pearl in terms of media capabilities, while the iPhone doesn't even offer secure push corporate email in the first place."
The iPhone also lacks the ability to run installed, third-party applications -- a popular business feature that the Pearl, like all BlackBerries, has.
Later in 2007 RIM -- which has not yet responded to requests for comment on this story -- is expected to unveil what Levy calls "a major step forward in capability for the BlackBerry platform": the 9000 series. Currently projected for release in late 2007, this will be a full 3G device that runs on Cingular's HSDPA network. Based on a next-generation processor, the BlackBerry 9000 will include a memory slot for full-device data backup and restore, and will be the first device to display a newly designed user interface from RIM.
In short, while in investors' eyes the Pearl may have temporarily lost some of its luster, the BlackBerry is not about to lose its juice.
— Richard Martin, Senior Editor, Unstrung