RIM unveils rejigged BlackBerry models ahead of WES

RIM unveils rejigged BlackBerry models ahead of WES

Toronto: Research in Motion is launching variations of two existing BlackBerry smartphones, the company said on Monday, and its co-chief executive hinted that much-anticipated announcements on a new operating system and browser are also on the way.

RIM is unveiling both devices on the eve of its annual Wireless Enterprise Symposium, a three-day event that runs from 27-29 April in Orlando, Florida.

A CDMA version of the high-end BlackBerry Bold device will ship in May to both Verizon and Sprint Nextel — two of North America’s largest wireless carriers that run CDMA networks, the company said in a statement. The BlackBerry Bold is already available to carriers that operate GSM networks.

GSM and CDMA are the two main types of mobile technology used by wireless carriers across the world. CDMA lost the battle for global dominance but it still has a strong position in certain markets.

The Waterloo, Ontario-based company is also taking the wraps off a new 3G version of the Pearl, which is the smallest of its range of BlackBerry devices. The new GSM device will allow for faster data downloads on newer 3G networks.

“We think what this does is it really rounds out the family of products, though we are far from done this year with new products," said Jim Balsillie, RIM’s co-chief executive, in an interview.

RIM’s shares typically jump ahead of the WES event, in anticipation of new product launches, and this year is no exception, with shares having risen more than 4% since the start of the year.

The buzz surrounding this year’s WES is particularly intense, with the company expected to also make announcements about a new BlackBerry operating system and browser.

Analysts hope software improvements will allow RIM to compete more effectively against Apple’s iPhone, Motorola’s Droid and a slew of other smartphone devices that have been nibbling away at RIM’s market share.

Balsillie, who co-heads RIM along with Mike Lazaridis, stopped short of commenting directly on any new software upgrades for navigating BlackBerry functions and browsing the Internet via the device.

“We will have more announcements, so I am not going to comment on further announcements. Mike will be doing a keynote ... So I would tune into his keynote and see what he has to say," said Balsillie, in response to a query about the new OS and browser.

Lazaridis will address the company’s analyst meeting on Monday and he is also expected to speak at the symposium later this week.

“I won’t steal any of Mike’s thunder," said Balsillie.

A growing number of analysts argue that rival smartphones could keep taking market share from the BlackBerry unless RIM delivers an improved operating system and browser.

RIM also announced an upgraded version of its mobile voice system (MVS) technology, which allows for the seamless integration of one’s office landline and BlackBerry device. The technology currently allows the two devices to work as one and a user can route all outgoing calls through his office landline device.

The latest upgrade to the MVS technology will allow users to make and receive phone calls from their BlackBerry devices over a Wi-Fi connection.

RIM’s shares, which closed Friday at C$70.58, are up 4.6%r year-to-date on the Toronto Stock Exchange.