RIM Plans Wi-Fi, Bluetooth for BlackBerry

By James Alan Miller

July 12, 2004

Research in Motion's president and CEO has reportedly said that WLAN and WPAN support is on the way for the popular handheld.

Research in Motion (RIM) plans to add Bluetooth and Wi-Fi to future versions of its BlackBerry handheld. At least that's what the company's President and co-CEO, Mike Lazaridis, indicated in a recent interview with Laptop Magazine.

The popular handsets have featured cellular capabilities for a couple of years now, in addition to RIM's famous push email and personal information management capabilities, essentially making the most recent BlackBerry generations smartphones. Their box-like nature makes them difficult for some to use as mobile handsets, however. Though headsets make them more usable as phones, the devices are still tethered to the user by wires.

The addition of Bluetooth would free users, allowing them to use their BlackBerries with wireless headsets, and therefore making the handhelds more suitable for voice communications. In addition, with Bluetooth, BlackBerry owners would be able to use their devices with other Bluetooth-enabled devices, such as printers for wireless printing and desktops for wireless syncing.

Lazaridis also mentioned in the interview the possibility of bringing Wi-Fi to the BlackBerry platform. The aim is to allow the device to roam between 802.11 and cellular networks for data and possibly voice communications. With this ability, users would be able to seamlessly switch from one type of network to the other, depending on what is available, cheaper and more optimal at the time.

Lazaridis didn't say when BlackBerries with either Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or both wirleess technologies would be available.

Other smartphones due later this year that integrate both Wi-Fi and cellular include Hewlett-Packard's h6300, Motorola's MPx and Nokia's 9500 communicator. In addition, T-Mobile announced back in February that it would integrate Wi-Fi and 3G (GSM/GPRS, EDGE & WCDMA) mobile services with the goal of creating a multi-speed network to carry data traffic.

Speaking in a press conference at the 3GSM World Congress in Cannes, France, T-Mobile Chief Executive Rene Obermann said, "we are creating one multi-speed, multimedia network; integrating 2G, 3G and Wi-Fi." He added that the goal is "total seamlessness" between the technologies.

According to the most recent statistics by market research firm Canalys, RIM came in fourth during the first quarter of this year for mobile device sales worldwide, as it succeeded in doing better at penetrating the European market.

North America accounted for fewer than 80% of shipments, compared to over 90% a year earlier. Overall, RIM jumped from only 2.2% of the market, with 94,670 handhelds shipped, to 6.4% of the market, with 379,990 devices shipped. That's an increase in shipments of over 300%.

Gartner reported earlier this year that RIM, which passed one million subscribers a couple of months back, thrived in the fourth quarter of 2003 with nearly the same total number of devices shipped in that one quarter as all of 2002. RIM also posted the strongest growth rate among top-tier vendors in 2003, as shipments increased 121% from 2002, and approximately 35 to 40 % of recent RIM shipments were upgrades of older RIM devices.

Reprinted from RIM Road.

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