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RIM's BBX phones may abandon classic Bold look

Do you love the Bold's keyboard and screen combo? It may be a thing of the past as the next generation of BlackBerrys sport a look that more resembles the PlayBook.

The iconic BlackBerry Bold look may be going the way of the dinosaurs once Research In Motion introduces its line of next-generation smartphones.

BlackBerry Bold
Is the Bold's iconic look going away with BBX? Research In Motion

BlackBerrys running on RIM's next-generation platform, dubbed BBX, will use the same screen aspect ratio as the PlayBook tablet, RIM said yesterday in PC Magazine. RIM's head of developer relations, Alec Saunders, said apps that run on the PlayBook will run on BBX phones.

The PlayBook runs at a 16:9 ratio, which PC Magazine points out hasn't been seen on other mobile devices. But it suggests the first BBX phone will eschew the standard keyboard-and-screen combination and instead look more like a full touch-screen smartphone.

To be sure, future BBX phones could go back to the classic look. But at least initially, it appears RIM will take a more conventional approach to touch-screen smartphones.

RIM has had mixed success with its full touch-screen devices. Its initial touch-screen smartphone, the Storm, was a commercial success thanks to a massive marketing push by Verizon Wireless. But the device was buggy and left a bad impression on customers who were stuck with it. As a result, successor Storm 2 didn't sell as well. The more recent release of the full touch-screen version of the Torch has also seen tepid sales, as most BlackBerry customers gravitate towards the higher-end Bold.

The PlayBook, of course, has also sold poorly. Staples is the latest retailer to offer a discount on the device and reportedly will drop the 16GB version to $199 for Black Friday. At its April launch, that model had a $499 price tag.

Saunders also reiterated RIM's commitment to bringing native e-mail, calendar, and messenger features to BBX. These features are expected to come to the PlayBook in a software update scheduled for February. It had previously been expected this year.