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BlackBerry could offer another way to get TV when it opens online app store

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MONTREAL - A TV service for BlackBerry users could be one of the premiere software applications offered by Research In Motion (TSX:RIM) on its new online application store as it continues to compete against Apple's iPhone and its popular App Store.

BlackBerry App World is expected to open within days, offering both paid and free programs for consumers and businesses.

The popularity of games, maps, weather forecasts and literally thousands of other software applications for smartphones are driving their growth.

Tech blogs carried reports Thursday that Waterloo, Ont.-based RIM was planning to announce a full-episode, monthly TV service for BlackBerry users as early as next Wednesday at a wireless conference in Las Vegas.

The BlackBerry app would reportedly use Wi-Fi networks to connect to the Internet, rather than rely on wireless carriers. RIM wouldn't comment on reports of its TV app.

Analyst Nick Agostino said consumers could use this service at airports, malls or coffee shops where Wi-Fi networks are often found.

"It's an app geared toward the consumer market," said Agostino of Toronto-based Research Capital Corp.

However, Agostino questioned whether consumers would sit long enough at a coffee shop with a Wi-Fi hot spot to watch a full television show, but noted the TV application would benefit the "guy at the airport waiting for his next flight."

This type of application would be suited to RIM's touchscreen BlackBerry Storm, which isn't Wi-Fi enabled, he said, but that could mean an opportunity to upgrade the Storm, released last fall and considered the iPhone's direct competitor.

NewTeeVee.com reported on its website the service would be an unlimited monthly subscription service for a fee and "multiple broadcast and cable networks have licensed content for the service."

Apple has been in the market for almost a year and has said its App Store, with more than 15,000 apps available, has surpassed 500 million downloads.

As well as RIM, Microsoft Inc. (Nasdaq:MSFT), Google (Nasdaq:GOOG) through its Android Market, leading cellphone supplier Nokia, and consumer electronics company Samsung are among those joining the trend with their own online app stores.

TV is already available on the BlackBerry via U.S.-based Sling Media, which lets users watch and control their home TV and digital video recorder on there BlackBerrys. A number of BlackBerrys can also access MobiTV, a mobile TV service.

Analyst Mark Tauschek of Info-Tech Research Group said he doesn't believe RIM's TV app would have wide appeal because television watching hasn't really taken off on mobiles and the proposed system to deliver it to the Blackberry isn't simple enough.

"If there are headaches, people are going to be less included go with it," Tauschek said from London, Ont. "I supposed it doesn't hurt for RIM to throw it out there, but I don't think it's going to be a big money generator for them by any means."

Although cellphones are popular, the Nielsen Company reported Thursday that Americans aren't watching a lot of TV online and are "staying right where they are - in front of their TV sets inside their homes."

Website Finance Geek also wasn't impressed with the possibility of a BlackBerry TV app, but noted the service would be ideal for the Storm with its big screen if the device were Wi-Fi enabled.

"But unless it's really cheap and really awesome, we think this is a non-starter."

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