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RIM strives to grow its BlackBerry patch

update Research In Motion develops a program to encourage manufacturers to use the technology behind its popular e-mail devices in wireless phones and other handhelds.

update Research In Motion is looking to expand the number and types of devices that use its BlackBerry technology.

The Waterloo, Ontario-based company announced Thursday that it will be launching a program aimed at helping future licensees to integrate the two-way e-mail features in its popular BlackBerry devices into new devices, such as next-generation handhelds and cell phones.

RIM has developed reference designs, or hardware and software blueprints, to aid manufacturers in getting products using RIM's technology to market faster and less expensively. The company will also provide consulting services to help integrate and manufacture devices using its technology.

Digital signal processor (DSP) maker Analog Devices will make it easier for companies to use RIM's technology by providing companies with a chip that integrates a DSP with a computing processor. The integrated chip will save companies money and space by essentially combining two chips in one.

The trend in the handheld market has been to combine more and more features into a single device. RIM recently announced a version of its BlackBerry device that adds wireless telephone service to its two-way messaging capabilities. Phone companies, meanwhile, have been adding e-mail and data services to their products.

As of Dec. 1, 2001, the company had approximately 289,000 subscribers to its messaging service. The company is expected to update those numbers April 9, when it reports its fourth-quarter financial results.

The new program could help future revenue, in addition to boosting the number of devices that use RIM's technology.

"Reference designs are typically sold to manufacturers on a per-unit royalty basis, thus carrying high gross margins," BMO Nesbitt Burns Research analyst Ray Sharma wrote in a report Thursday.

Palm and Microsoft already allow third parties to build systems based on their operating system technologies. Handspring is the best-known of the Palm-compatible companies; several PC companies use Microsoft's Pocket PC specification.

"As part of this initiative, RIM will work with leading companies to develop advanced technologies that will support the reference design program and provide device manufacturers and carriers with innovative, effective and timely wireless solutions," RIM co-CEO Mike Lazaridis said in a release.