It’s not often that the North American launch of a landmark device happens first in Canada, so last week’s unveiling of the BlackBerry Bold was significant in more senses than one.
Research in Motion’s (RIM) much-hyped BlackBerry Bold was rolled out in Toronto on Thursday – with Rogers Wireless as the sole distributor.
“The fastest BlackBerry in the world riding on Canada’s fastest and most reliable network,” is how RIM and Rogers Wireless executives described the new device.
And these motifs – of “speed” and “reliability” – were emphasized in all their presentations.
This was to be expected, given the specific focus on the new BlackBerry and the market it’s being targeted at.
With a price tag of $399 on the Bold for a three-year voice and data contract, this ain’t no doodad for the hoi polloi. (By contrast, the 8GB iPhone 3G is priced at $199 and the 16GB is $299).
Implicitly justifying the price-point, RIM executives say the Bold is a “premium device for the power user at the top end of the market.”
“It’s a whole new ball game,” said Patrick Spence, vice-president at Waterloo, Ont.-based RIM reminded media and other attendees at the launch. “It’s the first HSDPA BlackBerry available here in Canada. And that really steps things up – in terms of the browsing and streaming experience available to you.”
Spence said the BlackBerry has traditionally been associated with e-mail and contact functionality. But with the Bold, he said, users will be able to do far more with the device – including fast browsing and enjoying multimedia.
“One interesting thing we’ve introduced is the BlackBerry Media Sync that allows you to sync up the BlackBerry Bold to iTunes and get your DRM free music transported over to you BlackBerry in one click.”
Driving the Bold’s new capabilities, he said, are the new 624 MHz processor (the fastest BlackBerry processor to date), 1 GB of board memory – with a microSD card expansion slot that will support up to 32GB cards, when these come available, as well as GPS, Bluetooth and WiFi.
While its multimedia features may appeal to a broader range of users – the device is mainly targeted at business professionals.
Bold for Business
“It’s positioned as a premium device with all the functionality business users on the go would require,” said Shelly Sofer, director of public relations at RIM in an interview with ITBusiness.ca.
For instance, he noted that Bold is the first Blackberry to ship with Documents to Go, a suite of productivity applications that you can access on your handheld device.
Offered by Milford, CT-based DataViz Inc. Documents to Go allows you to edit your Word, Excel and PowerPoint files on your handheld device or smartphone.
“On the BlackBerry Bold, you can get a file as an e-mail attachment and then download it,” said Sofer. “You can edit the document, re-send it, or save it on the device.
As a 3G HSDPA (high-speed download packet access) device featuring enterprise-grade WiFi, he said the Bold has the horsepower that’s needed for the business power user.
The device, he said, supports the IEEE 802.11a, b, and g wireless standards. “You will see “a” more in an enterprise environment.”
Sofer said Bold has all the capabilities required by professional on the go – phone, e-mail, organizer, Web browsing – and then some.
There are more than 500 applications already available for Bold, the RIM PR director said.
Most of these would be listed on mobileBlackBerry.com – and there are some featured applications. Collectively, these apps enable business users to be more efficient and productive when they work outside the office, Sofer said. “And that’s important because today that describes the situation of more and more people.”
Bold vs. iPhone
When it comes to third-party apps, though, many experts say it’s still difficult to create and distribute those for BlackBerry devices – as RIM doesn’t give developers adequate access to core APIs on BlackBerry handsets.
Conversely, Apple has released its own software developers kit (SDK) and has launched the App store – and scores of developers acknowledge that the iPhone is an easier device to develop applications for.
He said Bold business users would experience the highest levels of security. All messages, he said, are securely transmitted, using either TripleDES or AES 256-bit type encryption.
“Also, when you’re on a BlackBerry enterprise server well over 400 IT policies give an administrator controls to enforce policies on the handset.”
These polices, he said, can ensure compliance with regulations such as HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) in the medical space or PIPEDA (Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act) in Canada.
Another security feature is a “data elimination” capability – that enables the administrator to wipe out the all data on Bold remotely if the device is ever misplaced, lost or stolen.
This remote data wiping capability of the Bold is one feature many information workers appreciate, judging from comments on the blogosphere.
Sofer noted that a very granular level of security can be set on the BlackBerry Enterprise Sever. “For instance, you can have a parameter that disables the use of just the camera.”
While targeted at business professionals, RIM execs suggested that the Bold would have a much broader appeal because of its strong multimedia features.
“The device offers you a 2 Meg camera, video recording, built in flash, three zoom levels,” said Sofer
The Bold’s half-VGA resolution screen, he said, is unique in it provides a very high pixel density in a relatively small area. “Between the pixel density – of 217 pixels per inch, the contrast ratio, as well as the screen’s luminance – you have probably the best display on the market today.”
As the device supports the realtime streaming protocol, he said users would have access to streaming video from YouTube, mobile YouTube, as well as other sites.