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Siemens touts Blackberry-based business phone

SK65 sports rotate-out QWERTY keyboard

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Siemens today launched the world's first handset to fully integrate RIM's Blackberry message and personal information application suite, targeting the phone straight at the enterprise.

With email users in mind, the SK65 sports a novel rotate-out QWERTY keypad. Unlike the Nokia 6820, the Siemens model doesn't rely on the standard numeric keypad to provide half the characters. The company calls the new layout 'cross to type', and it does provide a solid base for two-handed typists that's rather better than the tiny job Sony Ericsson has equipped its new P910 with.

The handset itself is a tri-band GSM/GPRS phone with Bluetooth. It supports the receipt of multimedia messages, but there's no on-board camera - a clear statement, Siemens' mobile phone chief, Thorsten Heins, said that this is a phone for business professionals.

Hence the full incorporation of Blackberry technology, which puts the handset on a functional par with RIM's own handheld devices. "The SK65 offers the full Blackberry application environment," RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie told us. "It's not just the communications stack."

Siemens SK65 Business PhoneThat distinguishes the SK65 from all other Blackberry-supporting devices, which simply connected to the company's server products.

Heins said he is positioning the SK65 at the top end of Siemens' range. Doesn't that clash with the SX1 Symbian-based smart phone, we wondered? No, it seems. The SX1, with is camera and multimedia playback functionality is pitched at a broader audience than the SK65, which the company hopes will attract CIOs keen to equip staff with a executive-styled handset that can connect to enterprise data yet doesn't offer too much scope for personal usage.

That said, the SK65 still supports productivity-depleting Java-based games; MPEG 4 and H.263 video playback; animated screen icons; and 40-voice polyphonic MIDI ringtones. So its shiny black serious-looking shell hasn't entirely ignored fun uses. The screen is a 132 x 176 64,000-colour display. The phone contains 64MB of RAM, 30MB of which is available to the user, and it runs Siemens' own proprietary OS.

Nicely sized for both regular and text usage, the SK65 measure 12 x 4.7 x 2.2cm and weighs 144g. It incorporates a 750mAh battery that provides up to 250 hours' stand-by time and up to 300 minutes' talk time.

Siemens did not disclose pricing, stating simply that it will be consistent with the phone's high-end positioning. The SK65 is scheduled to ship in the late October/early November timeframe. Siemens said it will offer the handset through carriers and retail, and thanks to the phone division's merger with the company' enterprise comms business, will also be pitched direct to corporates. We'll have to see over time how carrier customers respond to such competition. ®

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