RIM, AT&T debut BlackBerry Torch 9800 slider

Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) unveiled its latest touchscreen BlackBerry device, the Torch 9800, and also took the wraps off BlackBerry 6, which it hopes will help it close the gap with Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone and Google's Android platform. 

BlackBerry Torch for AT&TAs expected, RIM partnered with AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) to launch the device, which sports a slide-out Qwerty keyboard and optical trackpad and will be available for $199.99 with a two-year contract from AT&T beginning Aug. 12. RIM unveiled the device and new operating system at a press event in New York City.

"It takes months and years of effort to refine and finally bring to market truly innovative services," AT&T Mobility CEO Ralph de la Vega said at the event, according to the blog Boy Genius Report. "If you include meetings, from the engineering levels to the CEO level, we spent hundreds of thousands of hours between the companies." 

RIM has a great deal riding on the launch of BlackBerry 6; although the company remains the leader in U.S. smartphone market share, analysts have repeatedly noted concern that the company could fall behind rivals. Indeed, according to a report released Monday by Nielsen, just 42 percent of current BlackBerry users plan to stick with the device for their next phone, while 29 percent plan on switching to an iPhone and 21 percent plan on moving to Android.

RIM co-CEO Mike Lazaridis touted the advancements the company has made with BlackBerry 6, though many of the new features are standard on other smartphone platforms. The new user interface is designed for touchscreen navigation, and users will be able to swipe among five customizable home screens for applications. The new OS also has a universal search function, allowing users to search for any content on their handset, the Web or in BlackBerry App World.

In addition to the platform's new WebKit-based browser, OS 6 has a new app called Social Feeds that organizes social networking and RSS feeds. The OS also has threaded messaging, new multimedia software and a WiFi music sync function. RIM said BlackBerry 6 will be made available as an upgrade to existing BlackBerry Bold 9700, BlackBerry Bold 9650 and BlackBerry Pearl 3G users.

The Torch has a 3.2-inch screen, a 35-key Qwerty keyboard and a 624 MHz processor with 512 MB of Flash memory. The device also has a 5-megapixel camera with flash, WiFi and 4 GB of built-in memory storage plus a microSD/SDHD memory card slot that supports up to 32 GB cards.

For more:
- see this release
- see this release on OS 6.0
- see this All Things D post
- see this GigaOM live blog
- see this Engadget live blog
- see this Boy Genius Report live blog
- see these pictures and specs

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