Research In Motion has launched the BlackBerry App World online store, which is will initially offer approximately 1,000 free and paid applications to users of the popular business handset.

Mike Lazaridis, co-CEO of RIM, unveiled the new online store in a keynote address at the start of the International CTIA Wireless show in Las Vegas, showing off applications designed to help travellers and consumers use a variety multimedia applications.

Lazaridis noted that BlackBerry users have been able to download applications over-the-air for years but not in a centralised fashion. The company in February said it was moving to centralise the practice by following in the footsteps of rivals Apple and Microsoft. Apple offers applications for its iPhone devices through its Apple App Store, and Microsoft plans to open its Windows Mobile Marketplace later this year.

Lazaridis called App World "an exciting new sales channel" which aggregates applications in "one place ... and gives enterprise customers the controls they need." He did not elaborate on the controls, although analysts have speculated that corporations might be able to shut off access to App World or certain applications inside it.

Lazaridis focused much of his keynote on describing multimedia applications targeted at consumers, such as Primetime2Go, which downloads television shows to mobile devices for on-demand viewing. He also listed a number of music applications and social networks that will be available from the online store.

He also announced that the company has entered into a partnership with rock band U2. In a video clip shown during the keynote address, U2 lead singer Bono said the RIM partnership is designed to bring fans closer to the band. Bono also described the partnership as a "laboratory" to help BlackBerry users explore new uses for the devices.

RIM has adjusted its consumer marketing strategies over the past two years due to the growing popularity of Apple's iPhone. However, RIM maintains strength in corporate settings because of the BlackBerry's security and IT management features.

In a statement issued this morning, RIM said users will be able to conduct keyword searches through the new BlackBerry App World store. Reviews of applications from other users will be provided as well. App World is available for devices with a trackball or touch screen running BlackBerry device software Version 4.2 of higher.

Bloomberg, The New York Times, Hotel Reservation Service and MTV Networks are among the RIM partners expected to contribute 1,000 applications to the store this week.