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
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.
‘Fashion’ and e-mail in one Pearl.
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
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.