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BlackBerry Storm A Slick Diversion As Users Await Bold

As the BlackBerry faithful eagerly await the oft-delayed BlackBerry Bold, RIM appeased the salivating masses with its first ever touch screen smart phone, the BlackBerry Storm.

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But whether the diversion works and the Storm kicks up enough dust for the Bold hype to die down, is anyone's guess.

In a bid to show its marketing savvy, RIM and Verizon Wireless on Wednesday announced the BlackBerry Storm, formerly the BlackBerry Thunder. The 3G touch-screen, which features a "clickable" display that depresses and clicks as the user types, is just what RIM needed as it bides time with the BlackBerry Bold on indefinite hold.

The BlackBerry Bold, announced in May, was supposed to be readily available this summer. Then, it was expected to become available earlier this month. However, troubles with getting the device to operate seamlessly on AT&T's 3G network, a problem encountered by Apple when it launched its iPhone 3G in July, have put the Bold back on the bench.

The Bold sparked a frenzy. Upon its announcement, it was the most advanced smart phone in BlackBerry's 10-year history. It was also the first BlackBerry device to promise next-generation 3G support. Some called it the BlackBerry the world was waiting for. And now it seems the world will have to sit in wait until RIM and AT&T hash out software and network issues.

Never one to let its loyal cadre of several million users get too frustrated, RIM made a bold move, no pun intended, announcing the BlackBerry Storm in a sneak attack, an apparent bid to push the Bold back into the recesses of BlackBerry users' minds as they mull over the new kid on the block. BlackBerry made a similar move in September, announcing the BlackBerry Pearl Flip 8220 for T-Mobile while the Bold suffered its first round of delays due to issues with software, battery life and overheating.

The Storm is a slick device and it's BlackBerry's answer to the iPhone 3G and the Google Android-based T-Mobile G1. Now, with the Storm on the tip of everyone's tongue, BlackBerry can get back to work on getting the Bold up to snuff, hopefully before the smart phone buying public catches on that BlackBerry pulled the old switcheroo.

Granted, the Storm and the Bold are targeting two different demographics: The Bold looks to entice the corporate user who wants some consumer features on their device; while the Storm takes the opposite approach, aiming at consumers looking for some corporate functionality like mobile email, messaging and calendaring.

And there's a network difference too. The Storm is on Verizon Wireless' network and the Bold is on AT&T's, so carrier preference could come into play when selecting which BlackBerry is a better fit.

It's also still uncertain exactly when the Storm will touch down. BlackBerry said it should be later this fall, but the Bold was supposed have been here months ago. Price is also up in the air. It's estimated the Bold will run around $300, while the Storm would have to hit the $200 or less mark to fully compete with the Apple iPhone 3G and T-Mobile G1.

Overall, though, it appears the storm as coming at the right time and RIM can quench the appetites of users hungry for the Bold by feeding them the Storm.

It'll be interesting, however, to see what BlackBerry comes up with if the Storm also hits roadblocks.

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