New BlackBerry ‘Thunder’ to go head-to-head with Apple iPhone

By James Quinn, Wall Street Correspondent

Last Updated: 9:50am BST 16/05/2008

Research in Motion, the Canadian company behind the BlackBerry handheld gadget, is working on plans to launch a touch-screen version to compete head-to-head with Apple’s iPhone.

Research in Motion, the company behind the BlackBerry, is working on plans to launch a touch-screen version to compete head-to-head with Apple's iPhone
Apple’s iPhone and the most recent ‘Bold’ BlackBerry

RIM is understood to have been working on a new model called the Thunder – with plans to sell it exclusively through Verizon Wireless in the US, and Vodafone in other parts of the world.

Rumours of a touch-screen BlackBerry first appeared on the internet earlier this week, but it is believed that plans for the new model launch are well under-way.

RIM has neither confirmed nor denied that the Thunder exists, and declined to comment on mounting speculation that it will be released in the third quarter of this year.

In February, the company said it may bring out a touch-screen device if there was demand for it.

If RIM is close to announcing the launch of the Thunder, the new device is likely to come to market around the same time as BlackBerry’s other new model – the Bold – which RIM released details and pictures of earlier this week.

The Bold is in part a new rival for the iPhone, offering a media player, a two megapixel camera, and a stronger design with a stylish silver rim.

It is also aimed largely at those wanting the added capabilities that come from a 3G network – and so will be useful in the fight against the iPhone’s rumoured upcoming 3G model.

Although there are no suggestions as yet that RIM will combine the Bold’s technology and the Thunder’s touch-screen capabilities, were it to do so, the product would be a direct rival to the iPhone.

In the past, RIM co-chief executive Jim Balisillie has said he does not see the iPhone as a direct threat to its core business market.

However as RIM expands more and more into consumer markets, the company will increasingly come up against a barrage of smart-phone competitors, in addition to the iPhone.

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