RIM CEO reveals upcoming BlackBerry feature-set

RIM's President and co-CEO, Mike Lazaridis, today confirmed that the company will launch a line of BlackBerry handsets with a "lifestyle", "prosumer" feature-set, as well as at least one that runs on the 3G network.

The 8700 will soon get a 3G makeover

Speaking to CNET.com.au at the 2006 Wireless Enterprise Symposium in Florida, Lazaridis revealed that some of the specific features offered by these new devices will include improved multimedia performance, expandable memory, Wi-Fi, integrated GPS and a smaller, lighter design. Lazaridis said that there "could" also be a built-in camera, but would not definitively confirm this.

In response to questioning over the BlackBerry's poor video performance, Lazaridis said that the Intel processor in the 8700 had always boasted extensive "onboard [video and audio] acceleration" features, but that RIM "never enabled it" in order to ensure maximum "stability and reliability".

The next version of the BlackBerry firmware, v4.2, will enable these dormant hardware features on future and existing Intel-based BlackBerry devices (currently the 8700 is the only Intel-based BlackBerry), Lazaridis said. Once enabled, hardware acceleration could improve audio/video performance dramatically.

Lifestyle/multimedia features would make the BlackBerry highly attractive to the mainstream, non-enterprise market, many of whom would derive value from a BlackBerry push-e-mail solution but have shied away from purchasing one due to its highly specialised, enterprise feature-set. However, the new features aren't only beneficial to prosumers, says Lazaridis -- they could also increase the company's enterprise install base. "All of our enterprise customers are consumers [who use lifestyle features] as well," he said.

Lazaridis also made mention of the as yet unannounced BlackBerry 8707, which he promises will be UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications Standard) 3G-enabled. UMTS is just one variation of 3G technology, capable of running at speeds of up to 1920kbit/second.

The CEO would not confirm whether or not the 8707 will include the aforementioned prosumer features, however, a BlackBerry spokesperson later revealed to CNET.com.au that the 8707 will be essentially the same device as the 8700, except with added 3G support.

A specific release date for the 8707 is as yet unknown, but Lazaridis told CNET.com.au that the release was "imminent".

According to a BlackBerry spokesperson, the 8707 will be the next BlackBerry handset released, followed by the prosumer models.

Asher Moses travelled to Florida as a guest of RIM.

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