Research In Motion (RIM) is expected to unveil at a press event Tuesday a new touchscreen-based BlackBerry smartphone to compete with the iPhone 4. It's also rumored to announce a tablet-like device to go head-to-head with the iPad.
Although BlackBerry smartphones managed to retain their market-leading edge in terms of share, Research In Motion failed to unveil any groundbreaking devices to counter the increasing popularity of Apple and Google Android-based smartphones, which are now threatening RIM dominant position.
In true Apple-style secrecy, RIM is keeping mum on the announcements it would make today at an exclusive event at 11am EDT, but leaked pictures and information over the past few weeks are giving quite a clear picture of what's coming up.
A New 'iPhone Killer'?
Throughout the year, snippets of RIM's upcoming products surfaced, but the company kept quiet on its plans. After two unpopular touchscreen-only devices (BlackBerry Storm, Storm 2), RIM is expected to introduce the BlackBerry 9800, which next to a touchscreen, will also feature a slide-out keyboard.
The Storm and Storm 2 have been knocked by reviewers for their implementation of on-screen software keyboards. The original Storm has a clicky and fiddly keyboard that required you to have a hard press on the display to type. The second iteration removed this feature, but reviewers were still not impressed.
A couple of months ago, a full-fledged preview of the BlackBerry 9800 expected today surfaced, showing the device in full glory. Next to an on-screen keyboard, the phone also has a full QWERTY slide-out keyboard. Specs of the model also include a 1GHz processor, and a 5-megapixel camera, alongside 512MB of RAM.
The BlackBerry 9800 is expected to be an AT&T exclusive, and the price would be in line with Apple and Android competitors, at around $199 with a two-year contract. RIM has also put the 9800 through the FCC, making its launch imminent.
The Promise of BlackBerry OS 6
In the past few weeks, RIM teased with several short videos of its upcoming BlackBerry OS 6, which was specially refreshed for finger-based usage. It features a simplified home screen, new music player, social networking integration, and finally a WebKit-based browser with pinch-to-zoom. BB OS 6 is believed to debut on the Blackberry 9800.
A BlackPad For The iPad
As Apple celebrates over 3 million iPads sold to date, RIM is reportedly toying with the idea of joining the tablet fray as well. Dubbed the BlackPad (expect a new round of jokes regarding the name), is reported to feature a screen similar in size to the iPad, but won't have any 3G radio inside.
Instead, the BlackPad is rumored to tether with existing BlackBerry smartphones, either via WiFi or Bluetooth. The BlackPad is supposed to target the corporate world, and my colleague Jeff Bertolucci looked at several scenarios for the tablet's future, considering the spew of Android tablets coming up this year.
Haunted From The Middle East
As if Apple's and Android's steep competition wasn't enough, RIM also landed in hot water with authorities in the Middle East and India, according to Reuters. The United Arab Emirates put under scrutiny BlackBerry's encrypted services, and announced plans to ban BlackBerry Messenger, email and Web browser services from October 11.
India's authorities also pressurized RIM regarding the encryptions it uses for BlackBerry email and IM services, and the smartphone maker has now reportedly caved in to pressure and said it will not only work on opening up its service to security agencies, but also block some 3,000 porn sites by the end of the year for Kuwait-based users.