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ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

Research In Motion Ltd is looking to propagate its Blackberry platform more widely by offering other manufacturers a reference design based around the wireless technology.

As part of the effort, Analog Devices Inc will provide potential partners with an integrated processor supporting both wireless communications and Java applications on a single chip.

In a statement, RIM's president and co-CEO Mike Lazardis said it wanted to help manufacturers "quickly and easily deliver carrier-ready wireless devices and applications" based on Blackberry. The company is hoping to get its technology into PDAs, cell phones and other wireless handheld devices.

In opening up its technology to outsiders, RIM is following a trend in the wireless handheld market. Microsoft, as a software vendor, already relies on hardware manufacturers to drive its Pocket PC technology into the market. Palm has also been licensing its technology for some time, most noticeably to Handspring.

The move comes at a period of great change for the industry. Sales of PDAs have been battered over the last year - growth in 2001 was 18% and should be the same this year, compared with 114% in 2000. At the same time, with the debut of highspeed wireless data networks, the lines between traditional PDAs, smartphones and other wireless handheld devices are becoming increasingly blurred.

Opening up the Blackberry will also, potentially, put more muscle behind RIM's forays outside of North America and into new markets in Asia and Europe.

Todd Kort, principal analyst at Gartner Group, said that for vendors like Dell and Compaq, which already resell the Blackberry, there may not be much value in producing their own product. However, he said, carriers may be interested in producing their own devices. One problem that RIM will have to live down though, is a reputation for arrogance in its dealings with partners, he said.

RIM said it will not just offer potential partners the blueprints for the technology, but will offer services from integration and application development through to testing. RIM is already working with US wireless network Nextel and Motorola to develop a two way radio version of the Blackberry.

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