RIM adding music plug-in to Blackberry?

BlackBerry to be ‘entertainment-focused device’

David George-Cosh ,  Financial Post

Published: Thursday, January 31, 2008

The revelation of a new BlackBerry accessory is the first concrete evidence Research In Motion Ltd. will soon mount a long-awaited campaign targeting the lucrative consumer market.

Dubbed the BlackBerry Remote Stereo Gateway, details on the Federal Communications Commission’s Office of Engineering and Technology Web site indicate RIM looks to steal some thunder from Apple Inc.’s iPhone and make the BlackBerry devices as handy in the living room as the waiting room.

It’s about the size of a few crackers and is intended to connect directly to a stereo, while wireless Bluetooth technology is used to play music files from a multimedia Black-Berry.

“This is huge,” said Carmi Levy, senior vice-president of strategic consulting for AR Communications Inc. “This really is the first tangible evidence that has been bubbling under for some time, but RIM has been really quiet about bringing that to fruition.”

Allnew electronicequipment has to be registered with the FCC to ensure the device’s radio emissions are safe and will not conflict with other objects.

Perhaps to thwart tech-savvy detectives sleuthing for a glimpse into RIM’s development process, the device was registered to a Taiwan-based company, Cheng Uei Precision Industry Co., Ltd., even though the BlackBerry brand is prominently displayed throughout application documents. The Taiwanese manufacturer applied the accessory last week, but there is no release date given, according to documents on the Web site.

“This is a pivotal moment in the history of the Black-Berry franchise,” said Mr. Levy. “[The accessory] is now placing the BlackBerry as a front and centre entertainment -focused device.”

More than a third of RIM’s 12-million subscribers fall into the consumer category, a number that Jim Balsillie, RIM co-chief executive, told investors in a conference call last December he intends to increase this year. BlackBerry models such as the Pearl offer consumers a number of multi-media-heavy applications that extend past the push-based e-mail service that have made RIM a household name.

While other handset makers have released a number of Bluetooth-based accessories to work with their devices, RBC Capital Markets financial analyst Mike Abramsky says the add-on is likely the first in what should be many new consumer-orientated products to be released by RIM either during or shortly after the Mobile World Congress next month in Barcelona.

“This represents … a little peek into what’s cooking in the lab that RIM’s got going for an engaging consumer strategy,” said Mr. Abramsky, who maintains an “outperform” rating with a US$140 price target.

“This includes music, messaging … and browsing on a wireless basis without the phone. I wouldn’t be surprised to see BlackBerry Unite, which is coming soon, support some of these capabilities.”

RIM is looking at ways to gain market share and improve its business, said Info-Tech Research Group analyst Michelle Warren. She cautions it is trying to enter an already crowded market.

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