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Summary:

Research in Motion co-CEO Mike Lazaridis during his keynote at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona said that his company is going to launch a new WebKit-based browser. While he waxed eloquent about the browser, he didn’t give any specifics as to its availability, however.

By now I’m convinced that, just like CES, the Mobile World Congress is all about making claims about products that aren’t going to hit the market for at least another six months. Yesterday, it was Symbian 3.0 and Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 and today it’s about the BlackBerry. Research in Motion co-CEO Mike Lazaridis during his keynote at the conference in Barcelona said that his company is going to launch a new WebKit-based browser. Soon!

I could have told you that — after all last August RIM bought a startup, Torch Mobile, whose sole business was — you guessed it, making Webkit-based browsers. While he waxed eloquent about the browser (you’ll see how fast it downloads, how quickly it renders and how smooth it scrolls and zooms in, etc.), he didn’t give any specifics as to when it would be available.

If you ask me, RIM not having a decent browser is a travesty. When compared to those on the iPhone, Android phones and Palm Pre, the current BlackBerry browser is something out of the last century — slow and pretty much useless. How long before casual BlackBerry users start to defect to other platforms, especially Android, which will soon be offered on a whole slew of new touch- and keyboard-based web-ready phones?

The bigger question is, does RIM have the ability to innovate? The company made Storm as a response to Apple. It was late in launching an App Store, even though it had developers writing for its platform. It let Apple come up with the storefront idea. And it bought Torch Mobile about six months ago, and still no browser. But hey, it makes for a great speech in front of the world media.

Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):

What Does the Future Hold For Browsers?

By Om Malik

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  1. I don’t believe RIM even cares about competing with Apple and Android devices. They do things well for corporations where an iTunes like store, touch screens, and even a browser matter way less than at your local phone store.

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  2. It is Black_B_erry. Two capital B’s.

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  3. There are some things they’re NOT going to want to lose from the old “last-century”, “useless” browser, such as:

    • Ease of sending a link to the current page via email
    • Find within page
    

    I hope they won’t take Apple’s tacky hacky approach to adding find-in-page:

    1. Locate a find-in-page bookmarklet
    2. Bookmark it on your Computer
    3. Sync to your iPhone
    4. Use the bookmarklet on the iPhone

    Didn’t Apple used to stand for seamless ease of use?

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  4. sigh. i wish they’d fix BIS first. stop messing with things they will never really rls.

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  5. I think the problem is that RIM would have INSTANTLY crushed the networks if they introduced a bandwidth hogging browser like Apple’s because RIM already had millions of users on the networks whereas Apple was starting from nothing (and even so, Apple created a mess with networks in many cities as they grew). So, I think it would have been a much bigger travesty for RIM to simply/blindly follow the pack without any consideration of network loading. I understand they are building a browser that is both fast and efficient. I would like it to be here today too, but I suspect their short term sacrifice will pay long term dividends. Besides, they are still outselling Apple so there are obviously more people who value all of Blackberry’s advantages as a communications device (let’s face it, we don’t all spend hours a day browsing on our phone and downloading and quickly discarding useless apps – and if you do, I suggest you get an ipod touch for your coffee table and a Blackberry for your pocket).

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  6. Do you really think the browser will be available “soon”? RIM’s software updates aren’t exactly released with gazelle-like speed. I’m hoping for a summer releasing but expecting a late fall launch. Will I still use a BlackBerry as my primary phone in late 2010? Probably not.

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  7. Om, it’s my understanding that the Webkit-based browser team dates back to the time that RIM was busy launching their Mango rendering engine – the engine that shipped with the original Bold. Both teams went to work around the same time, with the Mango team releasing first, and the Webkit team taking longer to port the code over to the BlackBerry environment. I don’t think it’s that far away, but yeah, having an early beta would have been nice – though when’s the last time you’ve seen RIM release beta software? :)

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  8. RIM has confusing signals coming from them. They heavily promoted the start of their app store but till today it has not seen wide usage. Looking back, they have not come up with any innovative products since their launch of Black Berry; they are stagnant while all others are racing to launch new innovative products. I agree with most of what you have said on this piece.

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  9. This post & discussion couldn’t come at a more timely moment for me… I just this weekend bought an iPhone, and I’m already regretting it. “Everybody” says to give it more time. I’m wondering how “more time” is going to fix 6- to 8-hour battery life, lack of the BlackBerry’s AWESOME available-everywhere auto-text, clumsy email app and other glaring shortfalls on the iPhone.

    My number one reason for switching was the geriatric BlackBerry browser. That, and the BlackBerry camera app, which is miles and miles behind the iPhone’s.

    I’m about 70%/30% on coming back to the fold. A decent browser would help a lot, but I’m with Raymond Padilla: I’m not holding my breath for a new BlackBerry browser.

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  10. Sweet!!! I think this will def gain some brownie points with the top exec and corp users. Now they can whine a little bit less about how their kids’ iPhone looks so much cooler

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