RIM's Crimson Tide

BlackBerry will continue its cross-pollination of enterprise and consumer devices with a new model codenamed "Crimson," which will likely be launched by AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) (formerly Cingular) in April or May, according to sources.

The Crimson is similar to RIM's recently launched 8800 device. It is expected to sport a full QWERTY keyboard with a camera and run on Cingular's EDGE network, which has average data transfer speeds in the 100-kbit/s range. There's no information on the pricing yet, but RIM's $200 price on its successful Pearl smartphone may give some indication of what it will do with the new unit. (See RIM Fires Back With 8800 and RIM Polishes Its Pearl.)

RIM isn't saying anything yet. "RIM has not announced such news, but we will be happy to follow up when RIM has product news to share," a laconic spokesperson tells Unstrung. The need for two similar models -- one with a camera and one without -- neatly illustrates the split between RIM's established enterprise base and its desire to be a bigger player in the consumer market. Many of the legal and financial users that have helped to make the BlackBerry a household world aren't allowed to have cameras in their phones; but it is essential to have one for the wider market.

"There are lots of organizations that ask you to hand over your camera-enabled phone when you enter their premises," says Gartner Inc. analyst Todd Kort. "Thus the need for two."

There are likely to be some questions on why this new phone uses the EDGE (Enhanced Data rates for GSM Evolution) network rather than AT&T/Cingular's newer and faster UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System) 3G service. When Unstrung spoke to RIM at the 3GSM show in February, Jeff McDowell, VP of global alliances at RIM, said that the company is working on new UMTS devices but declared himself "very happy" with the performance and battery-life offered by RIM's EDGE devices. (See BlackBerry Convergence.)

Nonetheless, a new RIM device in this space could be more bad news for Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT). The No. 2 handset maker hasn't seen the sales of its own Q smartphone it initially expected. (See Moto Queues Up With Q.)

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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