RIM Demoing First BlackBerry with Built-in Wi-Fi

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Research In Motion (RIM) is showing off an upcoming BlackBerry wireless handheld that will be its first to offer Wi-Fi and VoWLAN support.

In some ways, the BlackBerry 7270 will be quite similar to previous RIM products, but in others it will be very different.

It will still allow users to check their email, access the Web, and make phone calls. However, all of this will happen via Wi-Fi (802.11b), and not cellular-wireless networks.

Its voice functions will be handled by Voice Over WLAN (VoWLAN), which allows users to make phone calls that travel over Wi-Fi networks, rather than traditional phone lines.

The 7270 will operate in conjunction with RIM’s new BlackBerry Enterprise Server v4.0.

Why Wi-Fi??

Using Wi-Fi rather than cellular-wireless networks can be less expensive, but BlackBerry 7270 users will be limited to within range of a Wi-Fi access point.

“A growing number of customers already have WLAN coverage throughout their organization and a large majority of our BlackBerry Enterprise Server customers are deploying or testing WLAN networks,” said Mike Lazaridis, President and Co-CEO at RIM. “As such, we believe this is an excellent opportunity to widen the productivity and work-flow benefits of BlackBerry inside organizations while maintaining a common architecture and infrastructure on the back-end for both local and wide-area wireless networks.

RIM believes this arrangement will be appropriate for a wide variety of industries, including manufacturing, retail, hospitality, education, and health care.

The BlackBerry 7270 is expected to be commercially available early next year, but RIM has been testing functional prototypes internally and will begin external customer trials with select organizations starting next month.

It is on display now at the Gartner ITXPO Symposium.

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