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Research In Motion Ltd. will develop a device for AT&T Wireless that marries the functions of the BlackBerry wireless E-mail pager with a cell phone. Within the next few months, AT&T customers will be able to use a BlackBerry device equipped with an earpiece and a microphone to make calls and access business-related data via AT&T's Global System for Mobile Communications/General Packet Radio Service network.
It will be the first RIM device to use the Java 2 Micro Edition operating system, which adds new IT management features. J2ME lets IT managers send a wireless transmission to delete the contents of the device if it gets lost or stolen, says Mark Guibert, a VP with RIM. J2ME also lets BlackBerry users upgrade applications wirelessly, eliminating the need for an IT worker to perform upgrades, Guibert says. The new BlackBerry is slated to be available on AT&T Wireless and Voicestream GSM/GPRS networks in the United States and on Rogers AT&T Wireless GSM/GPRS network in Canada. Details on pricing and availability were not released. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
"Anything manufacturers or carriers can do to make corporate IT managers more comfortable with the idea of arming employees with wireless devices is a good thing," says Jupiter Media Metrix analyst Joe Laszlo. In a survey of 710 IT executives by Jupiter in December, the inability to secure wireless devices was rated the third-highest barrier to deploying wireless devices to the workforce. The top two barriers to corporate wireless adoption were poor local wireless network coverage and the high price of the devices.
RIM is not the first to develop a combination pager and cell phone. Motorola Inc.'s V.series personal communicator and Handspring Inc.'s Treo series integrate voice and data capabilities. But RIM is tying itself to enterprises, says Laszlo, by offering less functionality to BlackBerry users and more management features to IT managers who would purchase the pagers in bulk and buy RIM server software to deploy various applications to end users.