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For anyone who questions whether the Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) iPhone was indeed a game-changing device, look no further than the number of competing -- and outright copycat -- devices hitting the market this year. For its part, Canadian BlackBerry maker Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM ) has launched not just one, but a salvo of new products meant to stack up against the Cupertino wonder.
RIM just recently announced a flip version of the BlackBerry, and details are now trickling out that Verizon Wireless -- a joint venture between Verizon Communications (NYSE: VZ ) and Vodafone -- will offer a new RIM device dubbed the BlackBerry Storm. The email smartphone will depart from the traditional BlackBerry button keypad -- it will have a full touchscreen face, just like the iPhone, as well as a plethora of other media features.
In an attempt to one-up the iPhone, the Storm's touchscreen is expected to have haptic feedback -- a slight vibration that occurs when a button is pressed in order to give the fingers a better feel for the flat-screen keys. The lack of tactile feedback is one reason many people argue that the iPhone won't break the enterprise, as typing out emails is more cumbersome for some.
If the pairing of Verizon and RIM is an exclusive launch, it will answer the AT&T/ Apple partnership, Sprint Nextel's (NYSE: S ) command of the Samsung Instinct, and T-Mobile USA's clutch on the new Pearl Flip and the rumored debut of Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG ) Android dream later this year.
As I've noted before, Verizon isn't known for getting the jump on competitors by locking up exclusive launches of highly anticipated new hardware. But it appears all of the major operators now have their killer devices staged for the coming holiday, with lines drawn in the sand around their best shot at the smartphone space.
Nokia (NYSE: NOK ) and Motorola (NYSE: MOT ) are also diving headfirst into the new smartphone war started by Apple. But the battlefront in the U.S. may turn into only minor skirmishes should the economy continue to crumble. While many of the new wannabe iPhone-killers hit the important sub-$200 price point, consumers may be overwhelmed by a new reality that includes fewer toys this holiday.
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