Nokia aims to pick BlackBerry users with new smartphone

Recent legal setbacks suffered by Research In Motion (RIM) ofWaterloo, Ont. appear to have left the converged handheld devicemarket ripe for picking.

Finnish phone maker Nokia Corp., will soon be shipping toCanadian shores a full keyboard smartphone aimed at luring awayusers of the popular RIM BlackBerry.

Early this month, Nokia began rolling out its E61 smartphones inEurope as part of a plan to gain a larger share of the lucrativecorporate market. The model is expected to be released in NorthAmerica later this year.

Key elements of the unit are its e-mail functions, a fullHyperText Markup Language (HTML) web browser and its wireless localarea network (WiLAN) and voice over Internet protocol (VoIP)capability, according to Tejas Rao, director of technology forNokia Canada based in Markham.

“In terms of form and function it’s very similar to RIM – andbecause it runs on the Symbian operating system, it actuallysupports BlackBerry users,” said Rao.

“This is the first (Nokia product) that truly replicates theBlackBerry,” said Eddie Chan, lead research analyst for mobile andpersonal computing technology at IDC Canada. “Nokia has largelybeen a consumer play, but this signals a move into the enterprisesegment of the converged mobile device market.”

He said previous Nokia offerings received “lukewarm” receptionbecause the design was not attuned to the market. For instance,models like the Communicator 9290, 9300 and 9500 required “thetraditional all fingers on keyboard approach.”

“They basically used a clamshell design. You had to have allfingers on the keyboard as opposed to the integrated QWERTYkeyboard of the BlackBerry, which you could operate with yourthumbs only,” said Chan.

But the E61 is packed with “highly desirable” features to enableit to compete with models from top mobile device makers RIM andPalm Inc.

“It’s got a lot of next generation features,” said Rao.

Companies that already have BlackBerries deployed can use theE61 because the Symbian operating system allows it to communicatewith the RIM devices.

Chan said the E61 will be “priced very aggressively” in NorthAmerica but added that other features aside from price point haveto be considered. “Buyers have to be convinced about the unit’ssecurity features, messaging platform and battery life.”

Chan said the converged handheld device enterprise market is”still very young” and has a lot of room for new players. The E61″offers users yet another choice in the growing array ofdevices.”

The release of E61 comes just weeks after RIM narrowly escapedbeing shut down by a lawsuit brought by Arlington, Va.-based NTPInc. RIM was recently slapped anew by another suit filed by VistoCorp., a software provider based in Redwoodshores, Calif.

In complaints filed before the US District Court of the EasternDistrict of Texas, Visto said RIM violates four Visto patents. Thelawsuit does not seek monetary compensation but demands that thecourt shut down BlackBerry service in the US.

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