Dual-mode BlackBerry on the way

RIM chief claims a Wi-Fi-enabled device for fixed-mobile convergence could be made available by the end of the year

Research In Motion is developing its first dual-mode BlackBerry, the company's co-chief executive revealed on Wednesday.

According to reports, Jim Balsillie told delegates at the JPMorgan Technology Conference in Boston that Research In Motion (RIM) has come around to the idea of including both Wi-Fi and cellular functionality in its devices — something that many of its competitors have now been doing for years. Such technology is central to what is known as fixed-mobile convergence (FMC), which describes the concept of being able to contact someone's desk phone or mobile phone through a single number, and those two phones sharing PBX functionality.

Balsillie is quoted as saying that, although he had not been a fan of Wi-Fi functionality while it was being "hyped as something that would… get rid of your cell phone", he had now decided it was a satisfactory complimentary technology to cellular.

Referring to Wi-Fi in BlackBerry smartphones as an imminent proposition, he also suggested that such an inclusion could take place as soon as "the latter half of this year", as long as the issue of hand-off — the seamless transitioning of a call from a cellular network to a wireless VoIP service, or vice versa — was sufficiently resolved.

Balsillie also claimed that most operators were supportive of FMC, as it resulted in more calls made through a PBX being routed to a user's mobile phone, whereas they might previously have gone to the voicemail attached to a fixed-line phone. Earlier this month, RIM announced that it would make it possible to use a BlackBerry as an extension of a company's PBX system through the introduction of its Mobile Voice System.