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    Blackberry pushing into retail market

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    With the smartphone pushing into the retail consumer market and most buyers of this feature-rich product belonging to the non-corporate group, the makers have become increasingly conscious on the need to focus on sleek design and trendy styles, media reports said.

    “Consumers are finicky and so they’re great when they love you, but if they decide that you’re no longer the cat’s meow … it kind of goes the other way,” said analyst Brian Modoff.

    “When you get into the consumer side, fashion comes into play, what’s hot with other people comes into play, so you’re dancing on dynamite, so to speak,” Modoff said.

    To its credit, the makers have lately shown they are capable of designing sleek, attractive and feature-rich smartphones. The , rolled out in September 2006, has received rave reviews and is in no small measure responsible for the BlackBerry becoming a coveted retail accessory.

    However, the Pearl’s success will not be indefinite.

    This is because Research In Motion (RIM), makers of Blackberry, have to compete with Apple’s iPhone as it reaches out to consumers.

    RIM’s co-Chief Executive has repeatedly said that the slim, touchscreen-equipped iPhone doesn’t pose a serious threat to the BlackBerry.

    Still, the Internet rumour mill is abuzz with talk that RIM is working on a BlackBerry which has no keys but has a touch screen instead — like the iPhone.

    A RIM spokeswoman was not available for comment and the company doesn’t usually comment on upcoming product launches.

    Investors, meanwhile, have been optimistic that demand strength will continue beyond RIM’s corporate clients and into retail, driving up its stock threefold since October 2006.

    The company’s valuation, with a market capitalization of about $63.8 billion, now easily eclipses ’s $43.9 billion, according to Reuters data.