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4/16/2009
02:44 PM
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RIM Says More Touch-Screen Phones Coming

Co-CEO Mike Lazaridis acknowledges there were issues with the BlackBerry Storm, but hints that the experience will benefit RIM's future touch-screen devices.

Research In Motion is planning more touch-screen BlackBerrys and thinks its brand and push technology can help it weather the economic slowdown, co-CEO Mike Lazaridis said in an interview with Laptop magazine.

The BlackBerry maker has been well known for the messaging strength of its smartphones, and much of that has to do with the physical keyboards. But with the full touch-screen iPhone selling extremely well, it was only a matter of time before RIM jumped into the space.

The company released the touch-screen BlackBerry Storm last November, and it utilized a technology called SurePress to mimic the tactile feel of a physical keyboard. Some thought the handset was rushed out for the Black Friday selling period, and it had multiple software bugs that led to criticisms and mixed reviews.

"I think there's some truth to the fact that these devices are becoming much more complicated, and of course we do a lot of testing every time before releasing these devices," Lazaridis said about the Storm. "And I think it's unfair. ... That's our first touch product, and you know nobody gets it perfect out the door. You know other companies were having problems with their first releases."

Lazaridis also hinted that the company will be coming out with other touch-screen smartphones, but did not confirm reports that RIM is already planning a "Storm 2" later this year that will have Wi-Fi and a new input method. Additionally, there's speculation that the company is working on a BlackBerry that has a full QWERTY keyboard and a touch screen.

The co-CEO also touched on the uncertain economic climate that is dragging down the mobile sector. Lazaridis said he thinks consumers flock to "trusted brands" during challenging times in the economy, and he sees the company's push architecture as a key differentiator from its rivals.

"You know that's one of our core strengths, and you know there's a lot of value in the BlackBerry push technology that we've got running," said Lazaridis. "It works across any device, anywhere in the world, any technology, and between devices. Now that's quite an accomplishment."

The company is still dominant in the enterprise space primarily because of its push e-mail capabilities, and it recently had a strong fourth quarter. RIM is also targeting the casual market as smartphones become a mainstream product, and it will increasingly clash with competitors like Apple, HTC, Android, and Nokia.


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