New RIM BlackBerry Adds Telephony

Responding to the growing trend toward multi-function wireless communications devices, Research In Motion Limited (RIM) Monday unveiled its first handheld for the North American market that supports wireless telephony.

The company said its BlackBerry 5810 will support GSM/GPRS networks and is aimed at the North American market. It started selling a similar device, the BlackBerry 5810, in Europe last year.

The device is based on the Java, 2, Micro Edition (J2ME), which the company said will enable use of a wider range of applications than its previous devices. As with its previous BlackBerrys, the device will support always-on e-mail access. In addition, it will support Short Message Service (SMS) text messages and Web browsing, the company said in a statement.

The company will demonstrate the device at this weeks Comdex Chicago trade show. It is roughly the same size as previous full-sized BlackBerry handhelds and includes the thumb-typing keyboard of previous devices. It will come with an earpiece and microphone that attach to the device for hands-free conversation.

The new device fills an empty slot in the U.S. market. Handspring recently released its Treo, which supports handheld functions and GSM wireless telephony, but does not have always-on e-mail. Palm recently released its i705 handheld, which has always-on e-mail but does not have telephony. Both are based on the Palm OS.

In addition, Nokia is expected to release its 9210 Communicator, which has been successful in Europe, into the North American market later this year. That multi-function device is based on the Symbian OS. Microsoft has been pushing variants of its Windows CE platform to phone vendors with somewhat less success to date.

RIM uses its own proprietary platform, but has been transitioning that platform to be based on Java.

RIM said that U.S. wireless operators AT&T Wireless and VoiceStream and Canadian operator Rogers AT&T Wireless will sell the device and are now accepting orders. A similar device, the BlackBerry 5820, already is on sale by a variety of operators in Europe.

The company did not provide pricing details about the new device, but VoiceStream in a separate announcement said the device would cost $499. The operator said that it will offer both data-only and data-voice plans to its customers. RIM said the devices will start shipping to U.S. customers within 30 days. Its timetable for rolling the device out in Canada has not yet been set.

Separately, RIM and IBM said they were growing their existing relationship to include the BlackBerry 5810. The company’s IBM Global Services group had been including BlackBerry products as part of its IT integration services.

David Haskin is managing editor of

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