Siemens has launched the first phone with full BlackBerry functionality. The SK65 is a tri-band phone aimed at business users, with a suite of applications including e-mail, calendar and browsing, licensed from BlackBerry maker Research in Motion (RIM).
The applications are provided under a new licensing program - BlackBerry Built-in - which lets mobile device manufacturers put the full BlackBerry suite into their devices. Previously handset manufacturers, such as Nokia, have only been able to integrate BlackBerry e-mail.
Gartner analyst Ben Wood summised: "This product is firmly positioned against the Nokia 6800 series but it takes a different approach." He added that the SK65 is not expected to sell millions of units but is aimed at filling a niche and adding a high-margin product to the company's portfolio.
The device could ease speculation about Siemens' future in phones. Although the company made strong third-quarter earnings overall, its mobile phones division lost €88 million due to falling handset prices, giving rise to speculation that the division was for the chop, despite Siemens' recent investment in Symbian.
"Siemens' device division is alive and well," said Gartner's Wood, who believes the introduction of the SK65 shows that the company has a long-term commitment to the market. The division is now merged with Siemens' fixed communications group but is still a strong prospect, said Wood.
Siemens plans to continue to add entry-level and mid-level products, but is now focusing on higher-end handsets like the SK65. The company predicts that smart phones will make up 20 percent of the mobile market by 2006, compared to two percent now.
Other recent Siemens phone launches include the higher-end S65 compact business handset, and the SL65 "slider" style phone. It plans another new top-range model in September which will not have BlackBerry functionality, the spokesman said.
According to the Siemens spokesman, the SK65 will go for an unsubsidised price of €300. The handset will be available in mature mobile markets in November, and later in developing markets such as South America and India, the spokesman said. The phone has a "candy bar" design that can be twisted into a cross form, allowing users to type on each side of the display, and will be available in a variety of versions.
"It will be interesting to see if the SK65 is compelling enough that it will convince users who have both a mobile phone and BlackBerry to switch," Wood said.