Ina Fried

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Touchscreen Bold, OS Upgrade Among New Pickings at BlackBerry World

Research In Motion made several announcements at the start of its BlackBerry World show on Monday, but it remains to be seen whether the moves are enough to stem criticism that the company isn’t moving fast enough to catch up with rivals.

The moves are mostly incremental–adding a touchscreen to the Bold, a modest OS update and features like FaceBook and video chat for the PlayBook tablet. Perhaps the biggest move is the notion of expanding its core BlackBerry Enterprise Server to manage other devices, such as Android and iOS, something that Mobilized reported in January that RIM was considering. RIM said on Monday that it is buying Ubitexx to help with this product.

“The multi-platform BlackBerry Enterprise Solution is designed to address a growing market and respond to requests from enterprise customers who want a secure multi-platform device management solution from a company that already delivers the gold standard for enterprise mobility,” RIM VP Peter Devenyi said in a statement. “We recognize the opportunity to continue leading in the enterprise market by providing customers with a common platform to help simplify the management of a variety of mobile devices.”

The company also touted other ways that its products can continue to appeal to businesses, such as the ability of its phones to divide into work and personal parts–the so-called BlackBerry Balance feature–as well as unified communications capabilities that will allow the devices to act as a desk phone at work and a cell on the go.

The announcements come just days after RIM warned that its current quarter profits will be far weaker than the company thought just a month earlier as demand for BlackBerry has waned, particularly at the high end of the market.

RIM is hoping a new crop of devices, including the new Bolds, will help reignite demand and has said it expects things to pick up toward the latter part of the year. In addition to a touchscreen, the new Bold phones sport Near Field Communications technology, a wireless technology which is seen as an emerging method for mobile payments, among other uses. The phones also add a compass to aid their ability for use in things like augmented reality.

The phones will be the first to use BlackBerry OS 7, an update to the RIM operating system that adds support for improved graphics and the BlackBerry Balance feature. Both new Bold models are due this summer, RIM said. T-Mobile said it will carry one of the models and that the phone will be the first BlackBerry to run on its higher-speed HSPA+ network.

The expanded BlackBerry Enterprise Server, with the ability to manage non-RIM devices, is expected later this year.