Research In Motion Ltd. (RIM), makers of the BlackBerry devices, joined the growing number of handheld and handset manufacturers offering their reference design to third-party hardware and software developers in an attempt to gain market share.

Microsoft Corp.; PalmSource Inc., the OS division of Palm Inc.; Symbian Ltd. and Nokia Corp. are among the other major manufacturers that have made similar announcements. In addition to making the “hardware and software” blueprint available, RIM will offer consulting services, interoperability testing, and a certification program. The latest RIM models already support Sun’s J2ME. But some developers say the RIM environment is still too restrictive.

Handhelds staying at the same rate

The handheld computer market should grow this year at about the same rate as it did last year, with both years well behind growth in 2000, a recent report stated.

About 15.5 million handhelds will ship this year, approximately 18 per cent above the 13 million shipped in 2001, according to Gartner Dataquest in San Jose, Calif. The 18 per cent growth rate almost mirrors the rate of last year, but growth in handheld shipments skyrocketed by 114 per cent in 2000, the report said. End users, meanwhile, are expected to spend about US$4.6 billion this year on handhelds, up from US$3.8 billion last year, the report said.

Gateway offers low-cost notebook

Gateway Inc. added an improved sub-US$1,000 notebook computer to its offerings, competing with a growing list of computer makers in the bargain notebook market.

Gateway priced its new Solo 1450 notebook at US$999 in a no-frills configuration. It uses Microsoft Corp.’s Windows XP operating system, an Intel Corp. Celeron 1.2GHz mobile processor, 128M bytes of memory, an Intel 4x AGP graphics card and an 8X DVD drive. The Solo 1450’s memory is expandable to 512MB, and it can be configured with a CD-RW or DVD/CD-RW combo drive in place of the DVD drive, a 15-inch display in place of its 14-inch screen, or a Pentium III 1.2GHz processor in place of the Celeron.