BlackBerry continues expansion, launches in Taiwan

One of Taiwan’s largest mobile phone network operators launched the popular BlackBerry service Thursday, continuing Research In Motion Ltd. (RIM)’s expansion into Asia.

Taiwan became the 17th country in Asia-Pacific to adopt the BlackBerry, but the service could face stiff opposition on an island full of companies loyal to Microsoft Corp.

The robust PC industry in Taiwan depends mainly on Microsoft for its Windows OS and other software. The largest handset maker backing the Microsoft Windows Mobile OS is also from Taiwan, High Tech Computer Corp. (HTC)

Still, Taiwan Mobile Co. Ltd. launched BlackBerry with the aim of attracting Taiwanese business and individual users to RIM’s community of more than 5.5 million global BlackBerry users through push mail and other data delivery services, including BlackBerry Internet Service.

The company is initially offering the BlackBerry 7290 and BlackBerry 8700g, and will expand to other products as the market develops.

Taiwanese users can type in Chinese characters via the QWERTY keypads on both BlackBerry handsets, but the two input methods offered, Pinyin and Cangjie, are not as popular on the island as locally-developed Zhuyin.

The difference is important for simplicity and ease-of-use. Prior to the development of Chinese input methods, typical Chinese computers required several keyboards each with hundreds of keys, forcing users to switch keyboards several times while they worked.

Taiwan Mobile said it already had over 160 companies interested in using the new service. The mobile network operator plans to work with them to enable their employees to access email and other corporate data with BlackBerry Enterprise Server.

One company hoping to spoil the show for Taiwan Mobile and BlackBerry is Chunghwa Telecom Co. Ltd., Taiwan’s largest network operator. The company teamed up with HTC to develop a smartphone that runs push e-mail via Windows Mobile 5.0 and Outlook Mobile, the CHT9000.

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