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11/24/2008
02:44 PM
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BlackBerry Storm Sees Long Lines, Delays

Analysts estimate the first touch-screen BlackBerry sold more than 100,000 units over the weekend, but the demand may be outstripping supply.

Verizon Wireless and Research In Motion have a hit on their hands with the touch-screen BlackBerry Storm.

Verizon stores saw long lines for the Nov. 21 release of the Storm, and the demand appears to be outstripping supply. Verizon hasn't released sales figures, but analysts estimate the carrier sold between 100,000 and 120,000 units over the weekend.

"Checks at Verizon retail outlets affirm stores quickly sold out of the BlackBerry Storm after opening Friday morning, given sizable lineups and pent-up demand," RBC Capital Markets analyst Mike Abramsky said in a note to investors.

The main draw of the Storm is the large high-resolution touch screen and the virtual QWERTY keyboard. The Storm uses a system called SurePress for its virtual keyboard, which is a suspension system that essentially makes the screen one big button. This approach makes typing with the virtual keyboard feel more tactile and similar to other BlackBerrys, RIM said.

Verizon's Web site was also hammered by customers trying to order the smartphone, and the order page now reads, "Limited Availability ... Orders placed now will be shipped by 12/15."

This delay has the potential to negatively impact RIM's results for the third quarter, which ends Nov. 29. Analysts said the shortage of inventory may be especially harmful if there aren't enough Storm units in stores during Thanksgiving week and particularly on Black Friday, Nov. 28.

"The limited availability appears to have frustrated some buyers," Abramsky said.

For Verizon, the touch-screen smartphone may help the wireless carrier stem the loss of subscribers who are hopping over to AT&T to get the iPhone. For RIM, the Storm is the latest in the company's move toward the casual and consumer market, as well as an attempt to fend off the iPhone from the enterprise market.

Is the BlackBerry Storm the right smartphone for you? InformationWeek took a look at the touch-screen handset and weighed the positive and negative aspects. The review can be found here.

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