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Nextel's BlackBerry ripe for picking

Research In Motion launches a BlackBerry device that runs on the wireless carrier's network and acts as a "walkie-talkie" for subscribers.

Research In Motion on Tuesday launched a new BlackBerry handheld with wireless carrier Nextel Communications.

As previously reported, the two companies said they were working on a device to be released in early December. The new $499 BlackBerry 6510 will ship this week. It's the first two-way communications device to run on Nextel's network.

The BlackBerry 6510 lets customers send and receive e-mail, link to an e-mail account on a desktop PC, make cell phone calls, and act as a "walkie-talkie" with other Nextel subscribers. To take advantage of the e-mail features, consumers will need to subscribe to Nextel's BlackBerry Email Service Plan, which costs $49.99 per month.

Both RIM and Nextel target a corporate audience and are looking to expand the reach of their respective technologies, so a partnership between them makes sense, according to Alex Slawsby, an analyst with research firm IDC.

"RIM's Achilles' heel has been the lack of choice for customers...which is something that the corporate market is not big into," Slawsby said. "But by teaming up with various wireless companies, they are changing and opening their technology to broader opportunities...It's similar to turning your technology into a standard rather than keeping it proprietary."

The company last month announced it is working with cell phone maker Nokia on a device that will launch in the United States by the end of 2003. Meanwhile, RIM rivals such as Good Technology and Microsoft--with its Smartphone 2002 software--have been stepping up their efforts to offer two-way wireless communications.

The BlackBerry 6510 measures 4.4 inches by 2.9 inches by 0.94 inches and weighs about 5.8 ounces. The device comes with a keyboard, a built-in wireless modem, a rechargeable lithium battery, and a microphone and headset jack.