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RIM’s ‘Pearl’ set to win consumer hearts

Making good on its promise, Research in Motion, the Canadian manufacturer behind the BlackBerry launched its first consumer version of the iconic gadget on Thursday

The new BlackBerry – dubbed 8100 or ‘Pearl’ – is a response from the company to concerns that while it remains dominant in the corporate mobile email sphere, it lacks a more consumer friendly version. The Pearl, which telecoms.com has seen and is currently testing, is a sleek, thin device that on first looks, could do extremely well in the consumer space.

In contrast with the bulkier, full QWERTY keyboard form factor of its predecessors, the Pearl measures just 4.2″x1.97″x0.57″ and weighs only 3.1oz.

The device still packs a QWERTY keyboard, although this combines two characters on one key to save space. The user interface is controlled by a miniature trackerball, which looks a little like a pearl and lends the device its name.

Being the company’s first consumer device, RIM has also added a 1.3MP camera and 65MB of flash memory, which is upgradeable to 2GB via a MicroSD card slot. An onboard media player allows for the playback of music and video clips.

Under the hood, it is all BlackBerry, with support for business and consumer email services.

Speaking at the pre-launch of the device in London, Wednesday, Charmaine Eggberry, vice president and managing director of EMEA at RIM, said research from the company suggested that 60 per cent of prosumers would spend money on mobile email. “The addressable market for mobile email stretches to over 80 million users worldwide and that market is 95 per cent untapped,” she said.

Nick Spencer, analyst with research firm Canalys, said that with the multimedia functions of the Pearl, “RIM is moving into the volume sales segment of the market and unit sales of the Pearl have the potential to be up there with those of the Nokia N series devices.”

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