TORONTO (Reuters) – Research In Motion is rolling out an updated version of its top-end BlackBerry Bold smartphone, aimed at the company’s base of professional users as well as wealthier retail consumers.
While the latest Bold is part of a series of new devices that Waterloo, Ontario-based RIM has planned in the next 12 months, it can also be seen as an attempt to reassert its dominance in the enterprise market.
The BlackBerry still rules among business executives, lawyers, politicians and other professionals. But in the broader consumer market, RIM has seen stiff competition from Apple’s iPhone and handsets from rivals such as Nokia.
The new Bold is thinner and lighter that its predecessor, which hit the market last year, and replaces the original Bold’s track ball with an optical track pad, RIM co-Chief Executive Jim Balsillie said in an interview. It also features a faster Web browser.
AT&T and T-Mobile are among the first wireless carriers around the world who will offer the new phone in coming weeks.
“We think it’s a major upgrade that appeals to professionals and to consumers, both men and women,” Balsillie said.
It almost certainly won’t be cheap, considering the price of the original. Today, the first Bold still sells for C$249.99 ($238) on a three-year contract with Rogers Communications, Canada’s biggest wireless carrier.
Without a contract, Rogers offers it for C$649.99.
Price, Balsillie said, needs to be taken in context of everything the smartphone is capable of doing for the user.
“Is it high-end, or is it a super-cheap plasma TV on your belt that’s also a phone, a game machine, an MP3 player, a camera, Internet terminal, et cetera, et cetera?” Balsillie asked.
News of the new Bold launch comes after Apple reported on Monday it had sold 7.4 million iPhones in its last quarter — part of an earnings report that handily beat Wall Street forecasts and pushed its stock to all-time highs.
RIM, meanwhile, reported results and an outlook late last month that disappointed investors and sent its shares tumbling more than 15 percent.
Last week, the company said it will launch a new version of its touchscreen BlackBerry Storm, which is aimed more at the consumer market, marking its latest move in the fight with the iPhone.
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