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RIM Unveils 3G Device, VC Fund

The 3G smartphone race gathered pace today as BlackBerry unveiled its long-awaited 3G device, the BlackBerry Bold. The company also announced the formation of a new venture capital fund that will back mobile applications developers. (See RIM Makes Bold Move and RIM Backs New Fund.)

News of the BlackBerry Bold, the 3G version of RIM's 9000 Curve family, comes only days after iPhone vendor Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) announced it's launching its 3G device in Europe this summer. (See Mamma Mia! Italians Get 3G iPhone and Is RIM Behind the Curve in 3G Handsets?)

The BlackBerry Bold comes with the same vague timeline, which means the race is still on to see which firm can be first to get its high-speed device into the hands of expectant users. The new RIM device, which supports tri-band HSDPA (High-Speed Data Packet Access) and 802.11 a/b/g WiFi networks, "is scheduled to be available from wireless carriers around the world beginning this summer," the company stated.

RIM's co-CEO, Jim Balsillie, told Bloomberg the device would be available to AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) customers for between $300 and $400.

Funding for apps developers
In addition to releasing details of its 3G device, RIM has teamed up with a bunch of big name partners and private investors to form a new $150 million venture capital fund, BlackBerry Partners Fund .

RIM has joined forces with financial information services giant Thomson Reuters , the Royal Bank of Canada, and an unknown number of unidentified private investors to create the fund, which, the founders say, will invest in startups focused on "mobile applications and services for the BlackBerry platform and other mobile platforms."

And the new venture's backers are keen to stress that funding isn't only for BlackBerry developers. The Fund "will not restrict the development of mobile applications and services to any single mobile platform or any specific industry segment," stated the official release.

Given the name of the fund and RIM's involvement, however, it seems likely that developers focused on applications designed for optimum performance on the BlackBerry platform will be best placed to attract investment.

It's not yet known how much each of the backers has invested in the fund.

RIM could not be reached for additional comment about the fund or its 3G device as this article was published.

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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