BlackBerry maker Research In Motion Ltd. announced a new model of its ubiquitous smartphone on Tuesday, this one able to operate on both cellular and Wi-Fi networks.
The dual-mode BlackBerry 8820, as the device is known, will be launched by AT&T in the United States later this summer, the company said.
"The BlackBerry 8820 complements our carrier partners' cellular networks with the added ability to stay connected via Wi-Fi at home, through hotspots and corporate campuses," RIM co-Chief Executive Mike Lazaridis said in a statement.
The new BlackBerry, like other recent RIM models, also comes with "latest media player enhancements," the company said.
The BlackBerry 8820 smartphone supports the 802.11 a/b/g Wi-Fi standards to enable data access over Wi-Fi connections in the enterprise, as well as through public hotspots and wireless home networks. The smartphone works in conjunction with both BlackBerry Enterprise Server and BlackBerry Internet Service and can switch between cellular networks and a Wi-Fi network to allow users to access email, Instant Messaging, organizer, web browsing and other mobile data applications.
To meet various security requirements, the BlackBerry 8820 is compliant with Wi-Fi security protocols including WEP (Wireless Equivalency Protocol), WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) and WPA2, as well as Cisco Compatible Extensions for simple, secure connectivity with Cisco wireless solutions. For enterprises that require Wi-Fi users to access the corporate network through a VPN (Virtual Private Network), the BlackBerry 8820 includes IPSec-based software that supports the most commonly deployed VPN gateways from vendors including Cisco, Check Point and others.
The BlackBerry 8820 also supports UMA, enabling wireless carriers to offer a fixed-mobile convergence service for both business and home use. With a UMA solution in place, the BlackBerry 8820 can also seamlessly switch voice calls between a wireless carrier's cellular network and a Wi-Fi network.
Waterloo, Ontario-based RIM is trying to broaden the market for its smartphones by loading them with consumer-aimed multimedia features like video and music players, and cameras.
Although the BlackBerry has become a staple of executives, politicians, lawyers and other professionals, it has yet to penetrate the retail market to the same extent.
Apple also realizes the potential for smartphones in the retail market. To that end, it has rolled out the iPhone, which prompted some analysts to worry about a competitive threat to RIM's BlackBerry.
Despite this, RIM forecast a rosy outlook for its future last month, apparently unfazed by the iPhone launch. And Jim Balsillie, RIM's other co-CEO, has repeatedly said the company isn't worried about the iPhone denting its sales.