RIM’s (RIMM) first touchscreen BlackBerry, codenamed Thunder, will find a very happy home in the U.S. with Verizon Wireless, the WSJ reports, confirming an earlier report by mobile blog BGR. For the last year, Verizon has gazed jealously at Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone, exclusively tied to archrival AT&T (T). Now it has the next-best thing.
Thunder will launch in Q3, BGR reports, and will work on Verizon’s network in the U.S. and on other networks abroad. Overseas, it will be sold exclusively by Vodafone (VOD), which holds a minority stake in Verizon Wireless.
A few questions: Will a touchscreen BlackBerry be great — or just so-so? Companies like HTC and Palm (PALM) have sold touchscreen smartphones for years, but Apple’s multi-touch display and user interface blew them out of the water. Will RIM have a similarly elegant interface and operating system? They might not.
And will the BlackBerry fanatics who’ve whined about the iPhone’s two-dimensional keyboard rush to the new phone, leaving their tiny buttons behind? The lack of a physical keypad, if you recall, is why many people say they’ve stayed away from the iPhone — and stuck with their BlackBerry.
Either way, this is a big catch for Verizon (VZ), and a crucial product for RIM — we think it will sell well.