RIM Launches New BlackBerry 7 Phones As Pressure Intensifies8:18 AM EST Wed. Aug. 03, 2011
Research In Motion Wednesday confirmed five new BlackBerry phones running BlackBerry 7 OS, including its first all-touchscreen model, as part of what RIM is calling its largest global launch product ever.
The launch comes at a critical time for struggling RIM, which has lost smartphone market share to Apple's iPhone and devices running Google Android and faced mounting criticism at it prepares to lay off 2000 RIM employees and restructure. RIM's stock has fallen 68 percent this year.
The five new BlackBerry phones include two BlackBerry Bold models, the 9900 and 9930, and three BlackBerry Torch units, the 9800, 9850 and 9860. According to RIM, more than 225 carriers around the world are in various stages of certifying with RIM to carry the units.
RIM described the new BlackBerry Bold units as its thinnest smartphones ever, at 10.5 mm, while the Torch 9860 design includes both touchscreen displays and a slide-out keyboard. The Torch 9850 and 9860 units are RIM's first all-touchscreen phones and have 3.7-inch displays.
All of the phones feature a 1.2 Ghz processor, HD video recording, 24-bit high resolution graphics and integration with BlackBerry Messenger 6. The two BlackBerry Bold models also feature native support for Near Field Communications.
Each of the phones features BlackBerry 7, the next generation of RIM's BlackBerry OS and said to feature a significantly improved Web browsing experience that delivers results 40 percent faster than BlackBerry 6-based phones and 100 percent faster than phones running BlackBerry 5.
RIM said it has also optimized the Web browser for zooming and panning and also HTML5 performance. In addition, BlackBerry 7 features a premium version of Documents To Go for free, including a PDF viewer, and also pre-loaded BlackBerry Protect and integrated BlackBerry Balance functions for enterprise security and management controls.
RIM offered no additional details on pricing, but said the five new BlackBerry phones will be available starting later in August, with carrier-specific details to come.
"This is the largest global launch of BlackBerry smartphones in our history," said Mike Lazaridis, RIM's president and co-CEO, in a statement. "The BlackBerry solution offers a best-in-class mobile communications experience that customers love and we think they will be thrilled by the faster performance, enhanced browsing and richer multimedia delivered by these powerful new BlackBerry Bold and BlackBerry Torch smartphones."
RIM has acknowledged the delayed launch of the new BlackBerry phones and is also looking for a bounceback following fiscal first quarter earnings that showed a 10 percent drop in sales for the quarter and provided guidance well below what RIM analysts had expected.
RIM's traditionally favored position among enterprise business customers is also being challenged, while the company hopes to revive BlackBerry phones and also find traction with its BlackBerry PlayBook tablet. Rumors circulated last month about RIM's plans to halt production of the Wi-Fi version of the PlayBook following several analyst reports.
RIM may also have a mobile OS conflict on its hands. RIM's new BlackBerry phones stick with the BlackBerry OS, not the QNX operating system RIM acquired last year and which is already seen on the PlayBook.
RIM plans to launch QNX phones next year, according to the company, which has brushed off criticism that knowledge of future QNX phone sales will hamper customer interest in new BlackBerry OS phones.
"We're delivering an enhanced experience, and we'll enhance it again when the time comes," said Patrick Spence, RIM managing director for global sales and regional marketing, told The Wall Street Journal Wednesday.