It's official: The stock market doesn't reward companies for original design. The BlackBerry Bold, introduced Monday, is the latest sign that Research In Motion is scrambling to blunt Apple's advance.
The Bold didn't arrive a moment too soon. In yet another indication that a new iPhone is on the way, Apple stopped selling the smart phones on its Web site Saturday.
Most analysts are betting a new phone that works on high-speed 3G networks will be announced on June 9, when Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs addresses Apple developers in San Francisco.
BlackBerry fans won't have to wait that long to get a glimpse of RIM's 3G plans. Like Apple's iPhone, the BlackBerry Bold sports a glossy black face and chrome trim.
And, in another nod to the iPhone, the new Blackberry's display is the sharpest one that the Waterloo, Ontario-based company has put on a phone to date — all the better for users to show off Web pages.
But the real reason Research In Motion shares soared 6.93 percent, or $9.20, to $141.97 Monday was because the Bold promises to give the business-friendly company traction outside the U.S., where the phone will go on sale this summer, and where high-speed wireless networks are all the rage.
It's a formula that even Apple will have a tough time beating. "If you were just looking at the client, the actual thing you hold in your hand, the iPhone would be a clear choice for most people," says Roger Kay, president of Endpoint Technologies Associates. "What distinguishes the BlackBerry from the iPhone is the back-end support."
And while RIM's latest phone looks an awful lot like the iPhone, when it comes to making its handsets business-friendly, Apple is still catching up. Apple is due to roll out some basic business features this June, such as the ability to synch with Microsoft Outlook e-mail and calendar software.
By contrast, RIM provides a wealth of tools for managing the process of hooking up corporate e-mail systems built on software from Novell, Microsoft and IBM to BlackBerrys.
The result: it will be hard for Apple to wrestle customers away from RIM in corporate America. "Everyone has always predicted RIM's demise because of the iPhone," Kay says. "I think it's a bit premature."