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Will BlackBerry 9800 Torch Light A Fire For RIM?

As expected, RIM launched BlackBerry Torch 9800 Tuesday, a new Blackberry smartphone and the first to include BlackBerry OS 6.0.

As expected, Research In Motion and AT&T introduced a new BlackBerry, the Torch 9800, at a media event Tuesday in New York, complete with most of the specs that had been rumored in recent weeks and the inclusion of BlackBerry OS 6.0, the first instance of RIM's new platform on a BlackBerry phone.

The BlackBerry Torch will retail for $199.99 with a two-year service agreement, exclusively through AT&T. It'll be available starting Aug. 12 and AT&T will offer two types of monthly data plans, at $15 a month and $25 a month.

RIM made the announcement shortly after an 11 a.m. Eastern press conference began, but much of the blogosphere had already confirmed the Torch's existence: RIM partner AT&T went live with a product page for the phone about a half-hour before the announcement was scheduled to be made.

Specwise, BlackBerry Torch has a slide-out physical QWERTY keyboard and an optical trackpad. It has a 3.2-inch, 480 x 360 touch-screen display, a 5-megapixel camera, 4 GB of memory and a 4-GB microSD card. Under the hood is a 1,300 mAh lithium battery -- providing talk time up to 5.5 hours, according to the spec sheet -- and the phone is also enabled for 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.1 and 3G.

As expected, the Torch is also the first BlackBerry device to have BlackBerry OS 6.0 built in. The Torch also has MediaSync, which allows it to sync to a user's home media content through Wi-Fi.

Now that RIM's cat is out of the bag, speculation will begin on whether it has the oomph to ward off challenges to its U.S. smartphone dominance from both Apple and Google. BlackBerries have been challenged this year by a glut of slick feature- and power-packed new smartphones from Apple and a number of smartphone makers using Google's Android OS, and according to researchers, both Apple and Android are gaining on RIM and BlackBerry in what for years has been RIM's U.S. stronghold.

RIM has set the the stage. Now comes the follow-through: Will ever-fickle smartphone users get fired up over Torch?

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