Is AT&T Sitting On The 3G BlackBerry Launch? - InformationWeek

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4/25/2008
12:40 PM
Eric Ogren
Eric Ogren
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Is AT&T Sitting On The 3G BlackBerry Launch?

Some interesting reports are surfacing of late that suggest AT&T is delaying the launch of the BlackBerry 9000 from June to August. The BlackBerry 9000 has been floating around Internet rumor sites for months, and is said to be the next-generation device from RIM complete with 3G. I'll give

Some interesting reports are surfacing of late that suggest AT&T is delaying the launch of the BlackBerry 9000 from June to August. The BlackBerry 9000 has been floating around Internet rumor sites for months, and is said to be the next-generation device from RIM complete with 3G. I'll give you one guess as to why AT&T might delay it.If you're thinking of a word that starts with the letter "i" and ends in "phone", you just might be on the right track. Analysts have recently suggested that Apple will use its World Wide Developers Conference in June to launch a 3G version of the iPhone. (If such a 3G iPhone will actually be available for sale in June is an entirely different story.) This is in line with reports from Taiwanese manufacturers, as well as the life cycle of the iPhone, and statements from AT&T's CEO.

Rather than crowd its store shelves with a 3G iPhone and a 3G BlackBerry at the same time, speculators say AT&T is going to hold onto the BlackBerry 9000 for a few extra months to let Apple enjoy its moment in the sun. (Never mind that the sun has rarely stopped shining on the iPhone since its release 10 months ago.)

Personally, I think this would be a mistake. Sure, Apple might be its usual pushy self and attempt to strong-arm AT&T into giving its pride and joy some space before a serious competitor is launched on the same network, but RIM shouldn't allow it.

RIM desperately needs to refresh its product lineup. It's been pushing the same designs for a full year now. The 8800 series, 8300 (Curve) series and 8100 (Pearl) series models may be adding new features such as GPS and Wi-Fi, but the hardware has been the same for 12 months. On top of that, RIM's entire lineup of GSM-based BlackBerrys has yet to add 3G. Like the iPhone, they are limited to EDGE data. RIM needs a 3G version of its phones badly, especially ones that are compatible with overseas networks. RIM should not let Apple steal any of the thunder its new devices deserve.

AT&T and RIM both declined to comment on these reports. All I know for sure is that AT&T CEO Ralph de la Vega said at CTIA that the company's entire lineup of smartphones -- including the iPhone and BlackBerrys -- would be 3G enabled within a few months. What "a few months" means is anyone's guess.

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