August 3rd, 2010
08:13 PM GMT
NEW YORK - If imitation is one of the most sincere forms of flattery, than Steve Jobs should feel pretty good right about now.
BlackBerry-maker Research in Motion is so concerned that Apple's iPhone is starting to chip away at its corporate stronghold that it launched a new touch-screen smartphone to compete. Not only that, they held a glitzy media event in the New York City to unveil it. The phone goes on sale Aug. 12 in the U.S.; release in international markets is expected to follow in the next few months.
Taking a page right from Apple the venue was trendy and the music hip, but that is pretty much where the similarities ended.
Apple has cool in its DNA and well, RIM are engineers at heart. Company president Mike Lazaridis wore a suit and tie during the presentation. The other executives, while clearly knowledgeable, nervously struggled with the teleprompter. It was a little painful to watch.
In the end though press events are fleeting. It is the phone that counts and it looks like BlackBerry did its homework.
The Torch has a touch screen and a pull out keyboard, which appeal to people who still like a keyboard for email.
They also put a lot of work into the operating system to beef up their apps and connections to social networking.
I sat down with Lazaridis directly afterwards and he was really excited about the universal search and display functions.
As we know, they face tough competition with Apple and Google. When I asked him why they were bothering to chase the consumer market he said: "We have learned that although every consumer is not a business person, every business person is a consumer."
Their core customer demands more than just security and he knows it.
It also seems that a tablet may be in their future. He said expect some more great mobile devices from RiM.
Speaking of security, he was much less forthcoming about the situation in the United Arab Emirates where officials are threatening a BlackBerry blackout if RIM doesn't provide government access to encrypted data for security investigations. BlackBerry messages are routinely encrypted.
When I asked him about the ban, Lazaridis adamantly defended their policy, saying "We will not give up the security of our product to our enterprise customers."
He would not say whether they were in discussions with the UAE or other governments in the region.
I'd love to know what you users out there think. Are you worried about BlackBerry blackout zones? Are you willing to give the Torch a try? Could this finally be an iPhone killer?
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