RealTime IT News

New BlackBerry Pearl a Boardroom Breakout

The BlackBerry, Research in Motion's (RIM) flagship mobile e-mail device with a fervent following among business people, is stepping out of the boardroom and onto the consumer stage.

For the first time, RIM will include a camera phone, MP3 player and more with its BlackBerry Pearl, available beginning Sept. 12 for $199 with a two-year contract from T-Mobile.

The phone GSM/GPRS and EDGE-enabled phone, measuring 4.2-inches x 1.97-inches x .57-inches and weighing 3.1 ounces includes a 1.3 mega-pixel camera and a media player for music and videos.

Users navigate around the 3.1-ounce phone with a trackball device and keyboard.

While the Pearl is a nod toward the consumer segment, RIM hasn't forgotten its roots.

The new phone includes an updated keypad for writing e-mail and text messages.

Support for BlackBerry's push e-mail service and the BlackBerry Enterprise Server also includes new IT policies integrating the Pearl's camera and memory expansion feature.

BlackBerry Pearl
'Fashion' and e-mail in one Pearl.
Source: RIM

Why is RIM entering the consumer, or prosumer, arena? Growth could be one reason.

"They needed a device at a lower service cost per month," said Gartner's Ken Dulaney.

It appears the company has managed that. Todd Kort, a Gartner analyst, noted the $20 per month cost for the Pearl compares with the up to $50 monthly cost for the BlackBerry.

And the Motorola consumer-oriented Q phone runs $80 per month.

Along with the Q, most people will compare the Pearl with Palm's line of Treo phones, said Kort.

Dulaney agreed. "Palm is very threatened right now being about $200 above the price point of its competitors RIM and Motorola," he said.

Indeed, Palm Wednesday warned investors that revenue for the quarter will drop below expectations.

In a statement, Palm CEO Ed Colligan said the company expects revenue between $354 million to $356 million for the period ended Sept. 1.

That's lower than a June forecast of $380 million to $385 million. Chief reason for the downturn: lower Treo sales.

Expanding the BlackBerry line to include stylish designs and offering a camera and music is an attempt to break away from being a "one-trick pony," said Bill Hughes, analyst with In-Stat. "They're pretty much pigeon-holed as e-mail only."

A source of early interest in the Pearl may come from BlackBerry subscribers looking for an alternative to the more hard-core business-oriented RIM smartphone, said Kort.

"It will appeal to people interested in serious e-mail."

Dulaney called the Pearl a good start, but RIM will need to offer more versions, especially in a market where buyers choose devices based on fashion rules.

Verizon Wireless recently unveiled its "Chocolate" device, a portable digital music player and phone that was introduced with a thunder of marketing.

"It is going to require a lot more marketing to pull in people not familiar with the BlackBerry," said Kort.

RIM was not available for comment.