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RIM chief upbeat about BlackBerry's future

Co-chief Jim Balsillie tells San Francisco tech confab he's confident RIM will increase subscriber numbers.

When asked how Research In Motion would add 10 million more subscribers to its BlackBerry service, Co-CEO Jim Balsillie certainly didn't seem too worried about the question.

"We're focused on the fundamentals, driving the hardware, the channel, launching carriers," he said. "I don't want to sound cavalier, but it's about when--not if."

Speaking to the audience at the RBC Capital Markets' North American Technology Conference in San Francisco, Balsillie sounded confident about RIM's future. Via live video conference from Waterloo, Ontario, he discussed the company's strategy in North America, its entrance into China and consumer competition.

Asked about how RIM plans to distinguish the BlackBerry from newcomers such as the Motorola Q, Nokia E-series and LG Chocolate, Balsillie said that since competition will always exist, innovation is key.

"I think differentiation comes from very innovative hardware, but also having highly integrated services relationships," he said, adding, "We have to win innovation on the device side every day. There's lots of competition, but this sector is dramatically expanding."

Regarding China, Balsillie told the audience that RIM is working with a Chinese partner on receiving approval for its hardware, but he gave no specific date.

The company, however, has been "flooded" with requests for BlackBerry Connect, the BlackBerry e-mail service for non-BlackBerry devices. "It's a dilemma," he said. "We want to support all the devices, but in the process of supporting so many, you may not keep all as current as they want to be."

He said RIM currently has between 250 and 260 carriers of the service, and projected it will reach 300 by the end of next year.