RealTime IT News

BlackBerry Storm 2 Brewing, Curve Coming

Things had been pretty quiet up in Waterloo, Ontario, since BlackBerry maker Research In Motion's impressive earnings report. But this week changed all that with a slew of announcements -- most notably, reports today of new BlackBerry Storm and Curve models coming this summer.

RIM (NASDAQ: RIMM), which has long reigned supreme in the enterprise, is planning a new version of its BlackBerry Storm smartphone as part of a strategy to increase its foothold in the consumer market, according to comments from co-CEO Jim Balsillie during an analyst presentation yesterday.

"That product was a huge success in terms of sales and adoption," he said.

Though it received mixed reviews, the original Storm was seen as the BlackBerry makers' answer to the Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPhone 3G, and was the first RIM handset with a touchscreen. And despite the tepid critical response to the Storm, RIM said the device is key to its efforts to reach non-business users.

"We see this very large and untapped consumer market," Balsillie said. "We have next-generation devices with [touch] and the whole roadmap."

RIM's efforts to focus more heavily on the consumer market come at a time when Apple's iPhone, long hailed as the "hero handset" for use outside of the office, is making inroads in the enterprise.

Still, RIM continues holding onto its dominance in the enterprise, with brisk sales for its last quarter. Meanwhile, theiPhone continues to sell at a staggering clip, and recent data from Forrester Research shows the iPhone nibbling at the enterprise market with some success.

Both companies reported strong numbers in their most recent earnings reports.

Meanwhile, RIM declined to comment on details of the so-called Storm 2, but AT&T today announced that a new, Wi-Fi enabled BlackBerry Curve 8900 smartphone will be available "early summer."

The new model includes GPS, a 3.2-megapixel camera and a high-resolution 480-by-360-pixel LCD screen. However, the phone is a "quad-band EDGE (850/1900/1700/1800 MHz) world phone," according to AT&T -- and there was no reference to 3G networks, which may disappoint some consumers.

Still, it would be hard to stop the momentum RIM -- and smartphones in general -- have going.

A new partnership with HP (NYSE: HPQ), announced yesterday, lays the groundwork for Web-based printing, mobile management software and managed deployment services for enterprises using RIM's BlackBerry devices. Also announced yesterday was a new Google App for BlackBerry enterprise use. Both developments come on the heels of reports that models of the BlackBerry Curve outsold the popular Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPhone in the first quarter, according to the NPD Group, which also says smartphone use is up. Smartphones, which represented just 17 percent of handset sales volume in Q1 2008, now make up 23 percent of sales, according to NPD.

And though mobile phone shipments were down 16 percent for Q1, the smartphone segment has fared better than the overall handset market, posting a 4 percent growth rate in the past year, according to IDC.

Things are only going to heat up this summer in the smartphone sector, with Palm's (NASDAQ: PALM) make-or-break Pre device set for release by mid-June and new iPhones from Apple rumored for next month. Several Android-based handhelds are also expected from Samsung, while Motorola is planning Android phones of its own later this year, in time for the holiday shopping season.