Shares of BlackBerry smartphone maker Research In Motion Ltd jumped early on Wednesday on speculation it is set to unveil a long-awaited touchscreen handset designed to battle Apple Inc’s popular iPhone.
RIM is expected to announce the launch of the slider 9800 handset at a joint BlackBerry-AT&T Inc event in New York Tuesday morning.
“The timing makes sense (for this to be the 9800 launch),” said Avian Securities analyst Matt Thornton.
“The earlier they are going to say it is going to be available on the shelves the better. They don’t want to miss one of the key seasons,” he added, referring to the lucrative back-to-school period for retailers.
Shares of Waterloo, Ontario-based RIM rose 2.4 percent, or $1.31, to $54.49 in New York soon after trade opened on Wednesday. In Toronto, the stock was up C$1.22, or 2.1 percent, at C$56.37.
RIM’s share of the North American market has been eroded by the easier-to-use touchscreen iPhone and a slew of smartphones that use Google Inc’s Android operating system.
Carrier AT&T, initially, is expected to get exclusive U.S. rights to sell the new BlackBerry handset, analysts said.
“We expect the new RIM slider to receive ‘hero’ treatment from AT&T, and for the carrier to promote the product aggressively,” Morgan Stanley analyst Ehud Gelblum said in a note to clients.
The handset is likely to be launched in Canada and Western Europe later in the year, in time for the holiday season, Thornton said.