BlackBerry to release converged cell-Wi-Fi device this year

BlackBerry-maker co-CEO Jim Balsillie told the JP Morgan Technology Conference on Wednesday that BlackBerry will release a converged cell-Wi-Fi device in the second half of this year.Computerworld's Nancy Gohring  correctly notes that such a product would be fairly late to the game.

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BlackBerry-maker co-CEO Jim Balsillie told the JP Morgan Technology Conference on Wednesday that BlackBerry will release a converged cell-Wi-Fi device in the second half of this year.

Computerworld's Nancy Gohring  correctly notes that such a product would be fairly late to the game. That's because Motorola and Nokia already have such products.

It appears part of RIM's late-to-the-party status is- at least to some extent- attributable to Balsillie's legacy skepticism about Wi-Fi.

"Wi-Fi was overhyped," Balsillie said. "I was not a big believer in it for the first two or three years because it was hyped as something that would subsume everything, that you would get rid of your cell phone. We feel it's complimentary of a cell phone."

Actually, there's precedent for such capabilities on BlackBerry. BlackBerry Enterprise Server supports roaming scenarios that in the case of Wi-Fi, "treat Wi-Fi networks just like additional cellular networks, Gohring noted Balsillie as saying. "That capability enables the handoff of data connections and voice calls between Wi-Fi and cellular networks as customers move.

"In addition, the BES 'presupposes the airlink is insecure,"  and so encrypts all voice and data transmissions using either technology, Gohring quotes Balsillie as adding. She also notes that BES already supports Wi-Fi connections - because the BlackBerry 7270 has Wi-Fi.