Apple, RIM to Throw Down on 3G

3G has finally come to the BlackBerry, and that likely has gear geeks and mobile professionals alike rejoicing. And announcing the BlackBerry 9000 “Bold” device at this point in time could be a very deliberate move: The signs point to the impending launch of the 3G iPhone, which Apple Inc. has made no bones about targeting to the enterprise. A block-and-tackle move from Research in Motion Ltd., then, certainly would be in order.

Consider: The not-yet-year-old iPhone has 28 percent of the smartphone market share in the United States, behind, you guessed it, RIM and the BlackBerry. But Apple’s mobile Web browser, Safari, enjoys a 71 percent usage rate. That suggests that whatever mobile Web browsing is going on is happening mostly via iPhone. With 3G speeds, it’s likely to become even more of an Internet device, something that would prove immensely useful to corporate users downloading, say, spreadsheets or PowerPoint presentations.

Then add in the fact that Steve Jobs said in March the iPhone 2.0 would reflect professionals’ demands for push e-mail, contacts, calendars and global address books. He also said the device would included beefed-up security with the remote wiping of data in case of theft or loss, as well as the option for two-step authentication. Meanwhile, Jobs also introduced the integration of business-friendly Cisco Systems Inc.’s IPsec VPN functionality, with direct access to the Cisco client.

As the cherry on top, rumors were flying today that AT&T Inc. plans to subsidize the iPhone down to the $200 mark vs. the $250-$400 BlackBerries tend to go for. Taken altogether, RIM could be facing a fierce competitor on its home turf of enterprise users. Maybe a little too fierce.


Enter the HSPDA-enabled Bold. The Bold, when available this summer, will be a grudging portfolio mate to the iPhone at AT&T, with all the well-known BlackBerry features, plus faster processing, a full 1GB of memory, better screen clarity, GPS and Wi-Fi. It also will support Windows Live, and full HTML for e-mails and browsing, for that “true Internet” experience. It boasts five hours of talk time and 13 days for standby. There’s no touchscreen, however, and despite the better clarity, the screen is still much smaller than the iPhone’s.

And as far as the iPhone goes, the fact that Apple’s Web site says the iPhone is “currently unavailable” has sparked a flurry of speculation that version 2.0 in all of its 3G glory could be here any second. That might be too aggressive, but Apple does have a history of drawing down stock in advance of major revamp launches. And, Apple’s annual developer conference is right around the corner beginning June 9. Jobs’ keynote address would make sense as a launch pad for the zippier new version.

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