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RIM's Touching New BlackBerry Plans

BlackBerry is said to be preparing a whole new "9000-series" operating system and device platform to take on Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL), Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), and others in 2008.

The 9000-series is described by Carmi Levy, an analyst at AR Communications Inc. , as "the future of the BlackBerry franchise," a complete breakaway from the device's business roots.

Instead, the new series targets the consumer space served by the Pearl and Curve models. (See BlackBerry Bumper Crop in '08.)

"The 9000 is supposed to be a touch-screen device, very similar in form factor to the iPhone," Levy says. "Which means that it is not an enterprise-friendly device."

The 9000 series will break from the traditional half-screen, half-keyboard look of the BlackBerry. The handsets will also incorporate an upgraded multimedia system, along with the standard push email capabilities. Better MP3 and video capabilities are crucial if RIM is to take on Apple, Google, and others.

Levy speculates that RIM will introduce the 9000-series in the first quarter of next year. "They were originally shooting for the second half of 2007," he notes.

The touch-screen devices, however, won't mean the end of the line for the 8000 series, because businesses will still need devices with proper QWERTY keyboards. "There will be incremental updates. They won't disappear," Levy says. Among the updates will be "a Curve with WiFi," according to Levy. These devices may have other updates like GPS location tracking and higher resolution onboard cameras as well. (See RIM Curves It Around.)

"There will certainly be 3G versions of some of the products like the Curve and Pearl," notes another source. "Rumored names for these devices include 'teal' and 'semillion.'" In fact, EV-DO versions of the Pearl are already starting to appear on the market. (See Fresh BlackBerry Juice.)

RIM itself hasn't returned calls on the new operating system. A RIM VP has already said, however, that the company will deliver four or five new models in 2008. (See BlackBerry Bumper Crop in '08.)

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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