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RIM positive about BlackBerry in weak economy

Research In Motion's co-CEO said Thursday that despite the tough economy he does not expect businesses and consumers to abandon their BlackBerrys.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Research In Motion's co-CEO said Thursday that despite the tough economy he does not expect businesses and consumers to abandon their BlackBerrys.

Jim Balsillie told investors at an RBC Capital Markets conference that this is most intensive economic period he has ever known.

"There are more variables, more need to navigate, more need for hands on the wheel and eyes on the road right now. If you don't, you do it at your peril," he said.

The BlackBerry maker's shares closed U.S. trading Thursday up 60 cents, or 1.4 percent, at $43.80, off their 52-week high of $148.13.

The BlackBerry is dominant among business users, who prize its secure e-mail that automatically downloads into the device. It has moved increasingly into the consumer space and faces competition from other smartphones including Apple's new and faster iPhone.

Balsillie said RIM is better at what it does now than five years ago when the company's stock leapt from below the equivalent $10 to over $15 in a single day.

He was upbeat about RIM's expected performance.

"I am really quite excited by what we think we can do coming into this season. What I think we can do throughout the rest of this year and the next year," adding he doesn't believe that people will give up mobile phones in a tougher economy.

Some analysts do not share Balsillie's optimism.

UBS analyst Jeffrey Fan said RIM will be affected by the slowing market.

"Although consumers are unlikely to get rid of cell phones, they may be more cautious about adding incremental monthly data fees, which could slow sales. We expect replacement cycles to continue to lengthen," Fan said.

Smartphones allow users to surf the web, listen to music, share photos, check e-mail and run independent third-party party applications such as games, other entertainment and stock trading platforms.

RIM plans to open an online application store next March, something its competitor Apple already has for the iPhone.