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AT&T Widens BlackBerry Distribution

New York – Research In Motion is adding new capabilities to its GSM/GPRS BlackBerry handhelds, and AT&T Wireless is expanding BlackBerry distribution by making available versions that keep an enterprise’s IT department out of the picture.

In mid-October, AT&T Wireless began selling the desktop edition of RIM’s GSM/GPRS BlackBerry 5810. It comes with desktop-PC software that users can load onto their networked office PC to redirect Microsoft Outlook and Lotus Notes email, calendar updates, and contact-list updates to the device.

The device also provides wireless synchronization of changes to Outlook and Notes data. This combination of capabilities lets users initiate, accept or decline meeting requests using the BlackBerry handheld, and their desktop calendar will be updated for the benefit of colleagues and assistants trying to schedule new appointments.

The 5810 is RIM’s first U.S. device to combine POP3 email redirection with Microsoft Outlook/Lotus Notes redirection, if the carrier implements POP3 redirection. AT&T offers this service.

The J2ME-equipped 5810, which doubles as a phone when a hands-free headset is used, also supports WAP browsers, but AT&T doesn’t currently offer a WAP browser with its 5810. New versions of the 5810 available from RIM also support XML and HTML browsing via proxy servers, but AT&T said it hasn’t decided whether to order the new version.

The 5810 desktop version is available through retail channels, including AT&T stores and, for $299 after rebate for signing up for a service contract.

The network-server edition of the 5810 has been available since the spring to AT&T Wireless corporate customers at $300, after rebate for signing a service contract.

At this week’s CTIA show in Las Vegas, RIM launched its 6710 BlackBerry phone, the company’s first with integrated microphone and speaker that makes it possible to place voice calls without a hands-free headset. The GSM/GPRS-network model is also RIM’s first dual-band (900/1900MHz) model for the U.S. market. It can roam on networks in the U.S., Europe, and Asia. It’s also RIM’s first model with a rechargeable battery that’s removable.

Like the 5810, the 6710 features J2ME, Outlook/Notes/POP3 redirection, wireless synchronization, and removable rechargeable lithium battery. It’s 4.76 x 2.99 x 0.7 inches and weighs 4.86 ounces.

Like the newer 5810, it supports XML, HTML, and WAP browsers, allowing for access to a carrier’s XML/HTML/WAP-browsing services. It also allows access to an enterprise’s intranet and corporate applications when used in conjunction with BlackBerry’s enterprise server software.

In the coming weeks, AT&T Wireless will introduce the BlackBerry 6710, initially in a server-based enterprise version followed shortly by a desktop edition that might become available at first via AT&T’s web site, AT&T said. Pricing and other details weren’t disclosed.

AT&T also announced its first unlimited email redirection plan for the BlackBerry at $49.99/month, excluding voice airtime, for the 5810 and the 6710. Other data plans for PDA-type devices start at $19.99/month for 3MB of data, plus 0.0065 cents per additional kB.