RIM tight-lipped on touchscreen BlackBerry rumours

Although refusing to comment on a touchscreen BlackBerry, co-CEO Jim Balsillie has insisted RIM is 'not religious on form factor'
Written by Natasha Lomas, Contributor

The new BlackBerry Bold may have been touted as an "iPhone killer", despite its use of the familiar Qwerty keyboard, but manufacturer RIM is refusing to be drawn on rumours that a touchscreen BlackBerry is in the offing.

RIM is banking on the Qwerty keyboard to keep its users happy, despite Apple's success in creating a buzz around its touchscreen iPhone. In fact, bypassing all the hype, RIM's latest device, the BlackBerry Bold, is as committed to the keyboard as ever, even if the smartphone has been styled to have an iPhone-esque silver silhouette.

Speaking at RIM's Wireless Enterprise Symposium in Orlando, Florida, Alan Panezic, vice president of software product management at RIM, said the Bold is all about "balance", as it has a high-resolution screen that gives the user more information on screen without dispensing with the "comfort" of the Qwerty keyboard or compromising on other key factors, like battery life.

He said: "Primarily [the BlackBerry] is a communications device… The feedback for us on keyboards has been fantastic, especially on the Bold. We've taken everything we've learned about keyboards in the last decade and — whatever tweak, whatever trick we've learned, whatever optimisation — they are all in the keyboard on the Bold."

But RIM co-chief executive Jim Balsillie refused to be drawn on the touchscreen BlackBerry issue.

He told ZDNet.co.uk sister site silicon.com: "We don't comment on products that haven't launched yet… We have evolved our products, so we're not religious on form factor; we're religious on efficiency and synchronisation and the carrier channel and then we evolve to the best of our ability, given the circumstances that we're in. So who knows?"

Balsillie added: "While you're asking if there's going to be a touch device, why not ask if there's going to be a flip? Has there ever been a successful flip smartphone?"

The key variable when designing new BlackBerry devices is efficiency, said Balsillie.

He said: "We focus principally on the efficiency because you have a multi-variant scarcity equation: battery is limited; thermodynamics is a challenge; capacity of the network is a challenge; size is a challenge — I have but one belt to give and I have to put [the device] up to my ear; and of course cost is a challenge. So, unlike Moore's Law with one variant… for the same price we have five variants of scarcity, so we focus on efficiency. So this is how we see our life when it comes to input and output and form factor; whether it's a media player or speakers or camera or keyboard… or other derivatives… we're not religious."

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