Vodafone gets RIM Storm exclusive--hopes for iPhone-killer

After months of speculation, RIM has launched its Blackberry Storm handset which will be offered exclusively next month by Vodafone and Verizon Wireless. What is hoped, particularly by Vodafone, is that this new touchscreen cellphone will provide the company with something to fight back against the runaway success of the iPhone.

According to Vodafone's global director of terminals, Jens Schulte-Bockum, he had met with RIM co-CEO, Mike Lazaridis, last summer and implored him to develop a breakthrough device that would help Vodafone to reposition RIM from a pure enterprise tool into the consumer space, "to the heart of the consumer space".

Early reports of the Storm handset would indicate that RIM's touchscreen device might have stolen a march over the iPhone by providing easier and more precise typing. Unlike the iPhone, the Storm has a ‘clickable' touchscreen, which apparently responds much more like a physical keyboard.

Tim Renowden, a research analyst at Ovum, commented that it was clear RIM was attempting to make its Storm handset more attractive to consumers, as well as enterprises. "It will be interesting to see how well the touchscreen works in practice," said Renowden. He also pointed to RIM's partnership deals with Facebook, MySpace and other consumer-focused applications such as instant messaging, as evidence that RIM is seeking to broaden its appeal to consumers.

Vodafone has failed to detail pricing for the Storm, although insiders strongly believe that the device will be free with two-year contracts.

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