New BlackBerry key to viability of smartphone
SMARTPHONE maker Research In Motion (RIM) yesterday debuted a BlackBerry with new software and slide-out keyboard in what is being seen as a critical test for BlackBerry's long-term viability.
The BlackBerry Torch has a touch screen like the iPhone, and full Qwerty keyboard similar to those on RIM's most popular BlackBerry models, the company said yesterday. The phone has a new operating system and Web browser, and will be available in the US later this month.
The phone may help RIM regain lost market share by combining the iPhone's fingertip Web surfing with a physical keyboard useful for typing long emails.
The operating system is "a very good upgrade to OS 5 as it fixes its browser and has a lot of good features," said Ken Dulaney, an analyst at researcher Gartner in San Jose, California.
"But it doesn't have the look and feel of an Android or Apple operating system and I'm not sure it will achieve the goal of taking volume away from them."
The phone is seen as key to RIMs place in the consumer market.
Nielsen research found that 58pc of BlackBerry users in the US -- the largest smartphone market in the world -- are planning to switch to an iPhone or Android device when their contract ends.
Meanwhile, RIMs woes in Asia continued after it agreed to allow Indian security agencies to monitor its service there in an effort to avoid an outright ban.
The move follows the decision by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia to ban the use of BlackBerrys, citing national security concerns.
The UAE is to block sending emails, accessing the internet, and delivering instant messages to other BlackBerry handsets while Saudi Arabia is to prevent the use of the BlackBerry-to-BlackBerry instant messaging service. BlackBerrys are renowned for being difficult to monitor due to the powerful encryption used on the devices.
"It's a reflection of fears of cyber-security and espionage that now extend to mobile phones," said Ron Deibert, director of the University of Toronto's Citizen Lab, who helped colleagues uncover a plot against the Indian government that involved computers in China. It's the type of thing that will become "more common for RIM as they grapple with public policy and ethical issues in emerging markets".
"Security concerns trumped commercial considerations," Eckart Woertz, who manages the economics program at the Dubai-based Gulf Research Centre, said of the UAE decision. "They want to control ongoing telecommunications but can't because of the way BlackBerry manages its data offshore."