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Research in Motion, the leader in the fast-growing market for advanced ‘smartphones’, will unveil the much-anticipated BlackBerry 8800, the latest in its family of BlackBerry mobile communications devices at the 3GSM telecommunications conference in Barcelona, Spain on Monday.

The BlackBerry 8800, dubbed ‘Indigo’ during its development, represents a key product launch for Ontario-based RIM, which is battling to stay ahead of a growing number of competitors including Nokia, Motorola, Palm and Samsung, which have all launched rival devices over the past year.

The 8800 combines the sleek styling and multimedia capabilities of the BlackBerry ‘Pearl’ launched late last year with the familiar full thumb-operated Qwerty keyboard beloved by BlackBerry aficionados including celebrities, politicians, lawyers and corporate executives.

Among its distinguishing features, the quad-band GSM/GPRS/Edge BlackBerry 8800 comes with built-in GPS satellite navigation technology, premium phone features including voice-activated dialling and full multimedia capabilities including a digital music player.

“The BlackBerry 8800 smartphone offers another winning combination of superior hardware, software and service embodied by an extremely elegant industrial design,” said Mike Lazaridis, RIM’s president and co-chief executive. “We spent a tremendous amount of effort refining the BlackBerry 8800, inside and out, and that investment will be evident to customers.”

RIM, which has more than 7m loyal Blackberry users around the world, sought to broaden the appeal of its handsets with the launch of Pearl, the first in a family of new devices. In contrast with earlier BlackBerry models, the Pearl featured a slimmer design, easy-to-use ‘pearl’ navigation ball instead of side-mounted tracker wheel and significantly expanded multimedia capabilities.

But while the Pearl has proved very successful, it lacked a full Qwerty keyboard that many users, particular heavy mobile e-mail users, have come to rely upon. RIM had promised to address this with ‘Indigo’, which RIM said will available from a variety of carriers worldwide beginning this month.

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