A new and improved BlackBerry?

Research-In-Motion (RIMM), creator of the widely used BlackBerry smartphone, has been feeling the heat from the Apple (AAPL) iPhone.

In an attempt to stay competitive with the Apple product, RIM has introduced a new version of its phone called the BlackBerry Storm 2. According to the company, "the second generation of RIM's innovative and award-winning touch-screen smartphone, the BlackBerry Storm 2 significantly improves the BlackBerry touch-screen platform."

The new product will initially be launched in the U.K. and E.U. with RIM's carrier partner Vodafone (VOD). The handset will probably move into the U.S. market quickly.

Apple is already pushing into the BlackBerry's traditional market -- businesses. A new study by JD Power showed that "among customers who use their smartphones primarily for business purposes, Apple's iPhone ranked highest with a score of 803, followed by RIM's BlackBerry with 724, on a 1,000-point scale." RIM cannot afford to have erosion in its market share among business users and hope to keep up its subscriber and earnings growth.

The advantage Apple has may have almost nothing to do with smartphone hardware or screen capability. Its Apps store now has thousands of useful software downloads, which tremendously broaden the appeal of the iPhone. RIM's applications offerings are very modest.

The Storm 2 may be a significant leap forward for RIM, but without the backing of a wide variety of software applications, that may not matter.

Douglas A. McIntyre is an editor at 24/7 Wall St.

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