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Next: A BlackBerry designed for work and play?

The BlackBerry could soon be given a consumer makeover. Asher Moses thinks it's about time.

Asher Moses, CNET.com.au

commentary The BlackBerry could soon be given a consumer makeover. Asher Moses thinks it's about time.

Ever since the first BlackBerry handheld lobbed into our labs, we've continually lamented their lack of certain consumer-oriented features, such as an integrated camera and audio/video playback functionality. Even with RIM's most recent handsets -- the 7130e and 8700 -- entertainment and multimedia features are few and far between.

From a corporate perspective, this is understandable. RIM's core market is the enterprise sector, and these users don't necessarily place high value on features that are predominantly designed for fun. Camera phones are also considered a security threat at many corporations. But the appeal of push-e-mail functionality (new e-mail being pushed to your handset in real-time) is finally beginning to extend beyond the enterprise, to small office/home office (SOHO) users and even individuals. We're an increasingly mobile society, and it's important that we're able to stay connected on the go, whether it's for work or personal reasons.

Technologies such as PDAs and smart phones are no longer just suited to work applications. Even outside of the 9-5 grind, we continue to use our handhelds for organisation and, increasingly, entertainment. In light of this, demand for a device that offers the BlackBerry's superb push-e-mail software, but also features designed for fun, is increasing exponentially.

Fret not, as RIM is certainly listening. In light of a poor first quarter 2006 earnings report, CEO Jim Balsillie acknowledged that consumers, as opposed to enterprises, will fuel the BlackBerry's future growth. "Instead of going to a corporate intranet site to check sales, you're going to a game site to play a game," he told the Canadian Press.

Rumour has it that next week, at the Wireless Enterprise Symposium in Orlando, Florida (CNET.com.au will be attending as a guest of RIM), the company will launch a consumer BlackBerry device -- a by-product of RIM's collaboration with Samsung. BlackBerry blog BBHub has taken this notion a step further by suggesting that the consumer model will be named "8180m" and will feature a built-in camera.

And if that wasn't enough, the fact that Yahoo recently signed a deal with RIM to enable the real-time delivery of Yahoo! Mail to BlackBerry handhelds -- not to mention the licensing of its BlackBerry Connect software to Palm -- only further indicates RIM's mainstream intentions.

Has the BlackBerry's lack of multimedia and entertainment features put you off shelling out for one? Would you consider using one if you didn't have to swap to a different device outside of work hours? Talk back to us below!