John Paczkowski

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Two New Yawners From RIM: BlackBerry Pearl 3G, Bold 9650

“If you saw the road map, you’d be blown away.”

— RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie, April 1, 2010

Research In Motion (RIMM) kicked off its Wireless Enterprise Symposium this week by uncrating two new handsets, the Bold 9650 and the Pearl 3G. Incremental upgrades to their predecessors, neither device is much of a head-turner.

The successor to the BlackBerry Tour 9630, the Bold 9650 features a 480×360 display, 3.2 megapixel camera, optical trackpad, GPS and 802.11b/g Wi-Fi support. It’s designed to work with either quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE/UMTS or dual-band CDMA/EV-DO.

The candybar Pearl 3G is similarly unimpressive. It features UMTS/HSDPA and Wi-Fi (b/g/n) support along with GPS, a 3.2 megapixel camera, an optical trackpad, a microSD/SDHD memory card slot. Excitingly, it is “the smallest BlackBerry smartphone yet.”

Well, there’s that.

If these devices are the first milestones on the revolutionary product road map to which co-CEO Jim Balsillie referred during RIM’s last earnings call, the company needs a better cartographer. Neither of these handsets is likely to give RIM much advantage in a market increasingly enamored of super-smartphones like the iPhone, DROID and Nexus One.

As Charter Equity Research analyst Ed Snyder observed in a note earlier this month, “Weak offerings in [touchscreen phones] and 3G leave [RIM] heavily exposed to a slew of new smartphones now hitting the market. While it will certainly maintain its lead in email-based smartphones, we see little chance it can sustain its market share, pricing or margins long-term.”

Certainly not with new handsets like these; though, to be fair, the company says it still has a few more things to unveil this week. “We will have more announcements, so I am not going to comment on further announcements,” Balsillie told Reuters. “[co-CEO Mike] Lazaridis will be doing a keynote … So I would tune into his keynote and see what he has to say.”