November 1, 2005 10:49 AM PST

RIM debuts Intel-powered BlackBerry

Research In Motion on Tuesday took the wraps off its first BlackBerry e-mail device to run on an Intel XScale processor.

As previously reported, the long-awaited BlackBerry 8700c, which was code-named Electron, will use Intel's PXA901 cellular processor, code-named Hermon. The device will also come with 64MB of flash memory and 16MB of SRAM (static random access memory).

RIM's BlackBerry devices and messaging service combine to provide people with always-on wireless access to e-mail and corporate data on portable devices.

The BlackBerry 8700c

Cingular Wireless will start shipping the device to customers starting Nov. 21. It will cost $299 with a two-year plan. Cingular, a joint venture between SBC Communications and BellSouth, will be the only wireless carrier offering the device in the United States for a "period of months," RIM co-Chief Executive Jim Balsillie said.

"We're not going into details--and you can expect to see other launches around the world in the not-too-distant future," Balsillie said.

The device will send and receive voice and data using EDGE (Enhanced Data Rates for Global Evolution) wireless networks. EDGE is a mobile network standard that lets users connect to the Internet and send and receive data faster than traditional networks, but slower than the more recent third-generation (3G) wireless standards.

In addition to its full QWERTY keyboard, the BlackBerry 8700c will come with a browser designed to accommodate Cingular's Media Net wireless Internet access service.

RIM and Intel together again
This isn't RIM's first time using Intel chips. The Waterloo, Ontario-based company used 386 chips--the same type Intel sold into the PC market in the early 1990s--in its BlackBerry 950 and 957 handheld devices.

Intel already sells its XScale chips in the handheld market, but they tend to be versions of older processors that provide lower levels of performance.

Balsillie said consumers will notice higher speeds than previous devices because of both the network and the new Intel chip.

"It really is a quantum leap forward in the performance for the user both in voice and in data," he said. "The speed of it is really a system experience. Though you may think it's the network, it's often other things."

The launch of the new BlackBerry comes as rivals--including Microsoft, Palm, Motorola and Nokia--step up their wireless e-mail product lines in a bid for a share of the fast-growing corporate market.

Last month, RIM shares touched their lowest level since May 2004, after investors voiced concern about increased competition and the company's legal battle with patent holding company NTP.

Also last month, RIM lost several attempts to derail the patent-infringement ruling against it, which meant the case was sent back to the lower court where it was first heard.

NTP successfully sued RIM in 2002 and won an injunction in 2003 to halt U.S. sales of the BlackBerry and shut down its service. That injunction was stayed pending appeal. The U.S. Supreme Court last week declined to consider an emergency appeal by RIM. NTP said it will once again ask the court to confirm the injunction.

Balsillie said he could not comment on the case, but reiterated past comments that RIM has a "workaround" technology designed to skirt patents at the center of the legal battle.

"As we've said before, we have a workaround. We said that back in June and we say it now," he said. "We're committed to supporting our market and supporting our customers."

Reuters contributed to this report.

 

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