New BlackBerry Means Fun in the Office

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Coming on the heels of their popular Pearl smartphone, the folks who make BlackBerry devices have another hit in their sleek, also black model 8800. The device packs the multimedia features and good looks of the Pearl, bringing them to a device aimed at BlackBerry's core office users.

Coming on the heels of their popular Pearl smartphone, the folks who make BlackBerry devices have another hit in their sleek, also black model 8800. The device packs the multimedia features and good looks of the Pearl, bringing them to a device aimed at BlackBerry's core office users.

BlackBerry's maker, Research in Motion, appears to be in fast motion indeed, having recovered from a patent fight that stalled sales in early 2006. The company reported this week that quarterly revenue jumped 66 percent over last year, as the Pearl expanded its market beyond E-mailing execs. The Pearl, for example, was the first BlackBerry with a camera, often forbidden around corporate secrets.

BlackBerry
COURTESY OF RESEARCH IN MOTION LTD.

With its new 8800, the BlackBerry ($300 with two-year contract) goes back to boring model numbers and drops the camera while restoring the Qwerty keyboard treasured by E-mail junkies. That makes it wider than the keyboard-less Pearl, if narrower and slimmer than earlier BlackBerrys.

But for the office crowd, it's the best BlackBerry yet for E-mailing and Web surfing. It adds a multimedia player, as well as a card slot and GPS navigation. The extra features have propelled fast 8800 sales, with analysts reporting demand as greater than for the Pearl.

The 8800 also drops BlackBerry's side wheel for the Pearl's tiny trackball on front. While an improvement, easing navigation in all directions across the screen, the trackball seems overly sensitive. Dialing with numbers embedded into a keyboard also is a pain, with no touch-screen to offer a big dialing pad. And so far, the phone is available only on AT&T's data network, which is slow compared with Verizon and Sprint.

The jump in sales, by the way, and profits only a penny shy of bullish $1 projections still weren't enough to keep RIM's shares climbing–prices fell 8 percent after word of an escalated U.S. probe into company stock options. But products like the 8800 suggest RIM is keeping ahead of its competition, if not entirely ahead of the feds.