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'Optimistic' RIM unveils Storm 2 smart phone

Research In Motion Ltd. moved to secure its status as the world's second-largest maker of smart phones by unveiling a new BlackBerry yesterday, just as its biggest rival, Nokia Corp., stumbled with disappointing quarterly results.

RIM launched a new version of its touch screen smart phone called the BlackBerry Storm 2 that is designed to browse the Web faster than the original Storm.

The initial version, launched a year ago, aimed to take market share from Apple Inc.'s iPhone. Although RIM sold about one million of the devices, the first Storm met with mediocre reviews and complaints about its software.

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"This is a dramatically different, dramatically enhanced product," RIM co-chief executive officer Jim Balsillie told Bloomberg News. "I have never felt more optimistic about our position and more excited about our prospects, but I've also never felt like we had more work to do. So everything has become more amplified."

Mr. Balsillie has spoken out recently about his enthusiasm for the future, after reporting quarterly results three weeks ago that disappointed the Street. Investors have wiped away nearly one-quarter of RIM's market value since the Waterloo, Ont., company said on Sept. 24 that sales for the current quarter would fall short of expectations.

Vodafone Group PLC, the largest wireless phone company in the world, will launch the new Storm in Britain and several other European countries in time for the holiday shopping season. RIM shares were down slightly with the broader market following the news.

"We believe the Vodafone announcement is largely embedded in expectations," Phillip Huang, of UBS Securities Canada Inc., wrote in a report Wednesday. The analyst maintained his 12-month price target for RIM of $84 (U.S.) and "neutral" rating on the stock.

He said he expected that the Storm 2 will also launch in the U.S. and Canada late this month.

Pierre Ferragu, of Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. LLC, warned in a note Wednesday that RIM's product launches in the next few quarters are likely to be disappointing.


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