Research In Motion plans to recruit and support up to 200 solution providers by this summer to help boost sales of its BlackBerry handhelds and spur application development for the device.
RIM also is in talks with distributors Ingram Micro and Tech Data to help it reach even more solution providers, said Mark Guibert, vice president of brand management at the Waterloo, Ontario-based mobile device vendor.
RIM's channel initiative focuses on the new BlackBerry 6210, introduced at CTIA here last week. The 6210 GSM/GPRS wireless device features a smaller size, increased memory and a lower price than BlackBerry 6700 series products.
Also at CTIA, AT&T unveiled plans to make the 6210 available for $349, more than $100 less than the price of 6700 series devices.
Guibert said RIM has added a Mobile Data Service module to the BlackBerry server, providing standards-based connectivity and making it easier for developers to write applications to push data through the server to the device.
"We really needed some pieces of the puzzle to support the VAR community in terms of having the Java developer kit and the carrier channels in place," Guibert said. "I think all of those things are in place now."
RIM also plans to launch a licensing effort to allow vendors to embed BlackBerry technology on Pocket PCs and Symbian devices, which in turn would enable RIM to work with those vendors' channel partners, Guibert said. In addition, RIM aims to develop a professional services unit that would support solution providers directly as well as through Ingram Micro and Tech Data, carriers and other device manufacturers.
RIM also is stepping up efforts to sell the BlackBerry through carriers' agent channels. But some solution providers questioned its commitment to the channel.
"RIM has been going in more than one direction," said Brian Solomon, vice president at CDCE, a mobile solution provider in Yorba Linda, Calif. "One day they say, 'We're going to aggressively support VARs.' The next day they're gone."