RIM and Rogers push integrated devices

Research In Motion Ltd. on Tuesday said a GSM/GPRS BlackBerry with e-mail and phone functionality will soon be available to Rogers AT&T Wireless customers,

further fuelling the trend towards integrated wireless devices.

“”It takes the existing Mobitex (network) product to the next plateau,”” said Mansell Nelson, vice president and general manager of interactive mobile service for Rogers AT&T Wireless. “”It will make it a lot easier for a company to bring the next level of mobile applications to (employees).””

Rogers expects to begin trials of the new BlackBerry by late in the first quarter. Nelson said the company’s aim is to be able to reach 93 per cent of the country with GSM/GPRS Blackberry functionality by mid-year.

Also on Tuesday, Waterloo, Ont.-based RIM announced an extension of its agreement with British Telecommunications PLC spinoff mm02 that offers a similar BlackBerry product to users in the United Kingdom, Holland and Ireland. RIM first shipped an integrated GPRS-network product to Europe last fall, though mm02 is currently only providing data service with the devices.

RIM’s agreement with Rogers comes less than a week after the company announced plans with Motorola Inc. and Nextel Communications Inc. to develop a integrated device to run on Motorola’s IDEN network. Last week also saw the introduction of Motorola’s V101, an integrated device also available in Canada through Rogers.

“”Demand for convergence has been talked about for a longtime,”” said RIM vice president of brand management Mark Guibert, noting that size and limited battery life limited demand for integrated devices up to the present. “”It’s just an evolutionary path where we’ve been able to make these things smaller and the component integration becomes more sophisticated.””

Guibert wouldn’t reveal what the new BlackBerry would cost and said pricing was mainly the domain of the carrier. He admitted, however, there would be market pressure to keep it in line with other BlackBerry products, which typically cost between $400 and $550, plus airtime of between $25 and $50 per month.

In contrast, Rogers sells the consumer-oriented V101, or Vbox, a QWERTY-keyboard device capable of instant messaging and mobile phone functionality, for as little as $99, with monthly charges that start at $20.

“”The Vbox is aimed squarely at the consumer market, and in particular, the youth market, because that is the segment that is growing the fastest,”” said Warren Chaisastien, an analyst with IDC Canada. “”It would not fit bandwidth-hungry corporate users.””

Guibert noted it was not only added bandwidth but also access to network servers that made RIM’s integrated device more of a corporate product. After installing RIM’s Enterprise Server software on their network servers, users will be able to employ Rogers AT&T’s high-speed GSM/GPRS network to access email and enterprise applications behind their company firewalls.

“”We’re definitely addressing different market,”” Guibert said of RIM and Motorola. “”Our focus is on the business customer.””

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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