Blackberries to Get WiFi Next Year
By Eric Lin, Mon Dec 08 23:15:00 GMT 2003

Research in Motion is working on a new Blackberry that can roam between cellular and WiFi networks. Don't throw away your current handset or PDA just yet though, RIM says they have the technology working, but that it won't launch before next spring.

Just last week it was revealed NTT DoCoMo was working on phones that could roam between FOMA and WiFi networks, now RIM's plans have escaped into the open. Although facts are scarce, they are definitely not alone. While no other manufacturers or networks have come forward with plans for dual-mode handsets yet, rumors have been circulating for months.

According to eWeek, the addition of WiFi is primarily expected to give users access to their email when they are in buildings with little or no cellular coverage like large office buildings or hospitals. Since most Blackberries are on unlimited data plans, WiFi can't really save them money, but in the case of browsing or large emails, it could save users time. Now that Blackberries have a full fledged Word document reader and editor, adding WiFi to them could revitalize their position as the corporate handheld of choice.

Even with their reputation and a possible head start, RIM will face serious competition. Next year will be the year for integrating WiFi into smartphones and connected PDAs. Rumors point to a strong showing by late next Spring, but combo devices will be the subject of many articles and wishlists all year long. eWeek also expects that some of these, even ones not from RIM, will use the Blackberry Connect software to keep users in sync with their corporate email. If any of these devices are as compelling as the Blackberry, or even more so, they could be digging their own grave. Those of us who aren't Exchange users can at least look forward to the WiFi / cellular combos the competition will offer.