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BlackBerry's Pearl in a clamshell

BlackBerry manufacturer RIM has launched its first clamshell messenger mobile in Australia, pitching it squarely at those who may not have used a BlackBerry before.

Here at CNET we have a dream.

(Credit: RIM)

No, not a vision of social equality, in fact it's more of a fantasy. We've hoped for a time when we'd see a family in a public place all dressed similarly and all talking on matching BlackBerry handsets. How funny would that be? Mum and Dad munching down power-lunches in the food court, yapping away on BlackBerry Bolds while little Johnny does likewise in a miniature business suit, his hair slicked back like a pint-sized Gordon Gekko.

Today BlackBerry manufacturer Research in Motion (RIM) brought this comic vision one step closer to fruition with the launch of the BlackBerry Pearl Flip 8220, the first mass-market BlackBerry aimed at children — sort of.

The 2G handset is a near identical release to last year's Pearl 8120, except with the shift to a clamshell form factor. It will run a modified version of the current BlackBerry operating system and will support GPRS/EDGE data services and feature Wi-Fi.

In addition, a spokesperson for RIM gave some details about the BlackBerry Unite PC client, which supports up to five BlackBerry user accounts and can be used to sync a shared calendar and documents. While Unite may have an application in small businesses, RIM sees it applying more to families as a 21st century update to the old Post-it note pinned to the cork-board in the kitchen. Parents (or employers) would also have the ability to create administration accounts and control the functions of associated devices, blocking features like web use and picture messaging.

The BlackBerry Pearl Flip 8220 will be available exclusively through Optus in Australia at the end of October on a business or consumer $79 per month BlackBerry services plan. BlackBerry Unite is available to download from the BlackBerry website.