RIM Regains Lost Edge with BlackBerry Torch

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RIM and AT&T have officially unveiled the new iPhone-like BlackBerry smartphone. The device--dubbed the BlackBerry Torch--provides a hybrid experience combining the familiar BlackBerry keyboard with the next-generation features of the iPhone and Android platforms.

The BlackBerry Torch--which will be available August 12 from AT&T for the apparently industry standard smartphone deal of $199.99 with a two-year contract--is the first device from RIM built on the new BlackBerry 6 OS. The Torch joins the Android-based Samsung Captivate to offer businesses tied to AT&T alternative smartphones roughly equivalent to the Apple iPhone.

RIM has remained the dominant smartphone platform, but a relatively stagnant portfolio of handsets has allowed the iPhone and Android smartphones to chip away at its market share. RIM has been riding on its established foothold as the primary corporate smartphone platform, and the fact that its customers are already invested in the BlackBerry infrastructure, but user demand is beginning to force IT admins to consider alternative smartphones.

The BlackBerry Torch, and BlackBerry 6 OS catapult RIM back into the smartphone race. It has the standard touchscreen display with pinch-to-zoom capability, support for 802.11n wireless connectivity, and a new mobile browser featuring tabbed browsing. It also incorporates new messaging features, and social networking app.

Because the BlackBerry Torch is available from AT&T, it is handicapped by the same data plans available for the Apple iPhone--either $15 a month for 200Mb, or $25 a month for 2Gb of data. AT&T recently took away the option for unlimited data except for grandfathered customers that have kept the data plan they already had.

Many BlackBerry users are as devoted--dare I say "addicted"--to the platform as some Apple and Android users seem to be to their respective smartphones. It didn't earn the nickname "CrackBerry" for nothing.

Even BlackBerry addicts, though, can become frustrated with a lack of innovation, and become increasingly envious of the features and functionality available on other smartphone platforms. The BlackBerry Torch lets companies maintain the investment in a BlackBerry infrastructure, while also meeting the demand of BlackBerry users jealous of what the iPhone and Android are capable of.

While Apple has made significant strides to provide IT admins with tools to provision, manage, and protect iPhones within a corporate network, RIM is still the standard. With the BlackBerry Torch, perhaps RIM can regain some of its lost market share and remain the leading smartphone platform for the foreseeable future.

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