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Queen adds BlackBerry to her high-tech collection

Her position at the top of royal high-tech was sealed when she made the direct-dial long-distance call in Britain. Now, 52 years later, it's being secured with the latest in wireless technology that allows her to download e-mailed photos of her beloved corgis with unprecedented speed.



The Queen, not one to shy away from technology, was presented with a white BlackBerry Bold 9700 while visiting Waterloo's Research in Motion facility Monday. It remains to be seen whether the always-proper Queen will join the masses of BlackBerry addicts who hunch over their handsets, but a RIM executive assured reporters that she is already an avid user of the device.



She glanced at it, held it and appeared to direct questions about the new BlackBerry to RIM co-CEO Mike Lazaridis and Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, who stood beside her, before placing it back in the box. But one thing is certain: Even at the age of 84, when many of her contemporaries are turning their backs on new technology, the Queen should quickly get a feel for it if she chooses to activate the device.

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She's no stranger to advancing technology, having lived through a revolution in wired and wireless communication. She was the first monarch to send an e-mail during a 1976 visit to an army base, and in recent years, she issued a podcast of her Christmas broadcast, visited Google and launched the first royal channel on YouTube.

She even has an iPod. U.S. President Barack Obama presented her a new one when they first met last year. It was her second one and, by now, could probably have replaced the clunky non-video model she bought in 2005 at the urging of her second son, Prince Andrew.

And she reportedly already has a mobile phone, perhaps even an older version of the BlackBerry. A spokeswoman for the Queen wouldn't confirm whether a royal BlackBerry already exists.



But David Yach, chief technology officer for software at RIM, said he was sure it was time for the Queen to discard her older device.



"I'm sure hers is well used already and she'll be ready for an upgrade," Mr. Yach said. "I've heard that the Queen and the whole royal family and the palace are all heavy BlackBerry users. I suspect that has something to do with why they chose to come here."

The Queen's tour of RIM, a technological giant in Canada, was short, but eventful.



As with her royal tour through Canada in recent days, hundreds of onlookers lined the streets and stood for hours in the sweltering heat to greet the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.

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She met several dignitaries and also Mr. Lazaridis's parents. (Jim Balsillie, the company's other co-CEO, was out of the country, a RIM spokeswoman said.)



Inside the RIM facility, in a cavernous workroom with polished floors and immaculately clean workstations, the Queen was guided down an aisle of machines. She wore a white smock to guard against electrostatic charge, but kept her hat and gloves on. At one of the workstations, she was shown a BlackBerry by a RIM employee and appeared to ask a question, pointed to the device, and seemed to take an interest in the conversation.



Mr. Lazaridis presented the Queen with her own BlackBerry at the end of the tour, a standard device with no additional applications. The only image loaded was one with a technological twist to an old tradition: A group of local schoolchildren holding bouquets of flowers.



Mr. Lazaridis said it was a pleasure to meet the royal couple. He said the Queen was "eager to engage with our employees" and "very inquisitive" about all aspects of the BlackBerry, including the number of countries where it was sold.



The Queen and Prince Philip, who have toured Halifax, Ottawa, Winnipeg and Toronto, leave Tuesday for New York, where she will address the United Nations General Assembly.

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About the Author
Education Reporter

Caroline Alphonso is an education reporter for The Globe and Mail. More

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