Research In Motion Ltd. introduced the BlackBerry Pearl, a new version of its e-mail phone with media features including a camera and music player. The Pearl will go on sale Sept. 12 in the US through Deutsche Telekom AG's T-Mobile USA unit, Waterloo, Ontario-based Research In Motion said today in a statement. Julie Hunter, a T-Mobile spokeswoman, said a Pearl will cost about $350. Co-CEO James Balsillie aims to attract consumers who buy phones from stores as well as corporate BlackBerry users, as larger competitors including Nokia Oyj and Motorola Inc. offer new mobile e-mail handsets. Smaller rival Palm Inc. yesterday said Q1 sales missed the company's forecast as demand for its Treo phones dried up. “This expands our world,” Balsillie said in an interview yesterday. “It fits with our existing market. It expands the addressable market with media-focused consumers and creates a strong retail demand.” Shares of Research In Motion declined $2.28, or 2.8%, to $79.79 in Nasdaq Stock Market composite trading yesterday. The stock has gained 21% this year. The Pearl has a 1.3 megapixel camera with zoom and flash as well as a trackball navigator, an expandable memory card, Bluetooth capability and phone features including conference calling and voice-activated dialing. The units will cost about $250 with a one-year service contract and about $200 with a two-year agreement, Hunter said. At just more than a 1/2 inch thick, the Pearl is the smallest BlackBerry yet with a face that's about 4 inches long by 2 inches wide. Balsillie declined to give sales targets for it.
Research In Motion plans an “aggressive” marketing campaign for the Pearl and will also invest in helping retailers sell the product in stores. The Pearl will debut in other countries in coming weeks, according to Balsillie. The company has been working on the development of the Pearl for more than 30 months as it sought ways to provide consumers with Blackberry e-mail capabilities as well as media functions for personal use, Balsillie said. “You still get full Blackberry, but it addresses those who say they want media capabilities too,” he said. (Bloomberg)