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BlackBerry shows its true colors

Research In Motion brings color screens to its pager-size e-mail devices as companies jostle to provide the right formula for handheld computing.

Research In Motion has brought color screens to its BlackBerry e-mail devices as companies jostle to provide the right formula for handheld computing.

The BlackBerry 7230, which debuted in Germany and Austria on Monday, was released in conjunction with the opening of T-Mobile International retail outlets in those countries. The device will work on GSM/GPRS (Global System for Mobile Communications/General Packet Radio Service) networks internationally. RIM also came out with a monochrome BlackBerry, the 6230.

For years, the Waterloo, Ontario-based company has dominated the relatively small market for portable e-mail devices, but the picture is rapidly changing. Cell phone makers are inserting e-mail and data services onto their phones. Start-ups Good Technology and Danger also have released devices similar to the BlackBerry.

The debut of a BlackBerry with a color screen comes ahead of Good and Danger. However, Danger is working on a "Hiptop" device that's expected to be available by the end of June. And some of RIM's indirect competitors, such as Palm or Handspring, already have color screens in their devices.

In fiscal 2003, which ended March 1, RIM saw revenue rise to $306.7 million from $294.1 million. Subscribers during the year grew 71,000 to 534,000. The company, however, reported $130 million in losses.

Both the 7230 and the 6230 come with 16MB of flash memory and can support a wide variety of e-mail applications.