The BlackBerry "Bold 9800" slider is yet another Research In Motion (RIM) smartphone that's been tech spec'd, pictured and caught on video long before the BlackBerry-maker chooses to acknowledge its existence.
The first images of the rumored device hit the Web back in March, and they showed a BlackBerry with vertical-slider form factor, a trackpad for navigation, the BlackBerry "Bold" keyboard, and what appeared to be a large-ish touch-display.
A month or so later, purported screen shots of BlackBerry 6, RIM's next major OS update, showed up online, and the dimensions of the images suggested they could have been grabbed from the new slider device, fanning the flames of another rumor: That the Slider will ship with the BlackBerry 6 OS.
Then we saw some very blurry images of what appear to be the Bold 9800 slider running RIM's upcoming OS, seemingly confirming that rumor. And a week later, the first video of the BlackBerry Bold 9800 slider popped up, as well, showing the rear side of the device for the first time and revealing the "Bold" model name.
This morning, yet another BlackBerry Bold 9800 slider rumor has surfaced, and this time it relates to the initial release date. BGR.com claims its inside sources say the Bold 9800 slider could be released as early as June exclusively through AT&T.
This date sounds a bit off to me for a number of reasons, though a June BlackBerry 9800 release is certainly plausible. First of all, Apple's expected to release the next iPhone in late June. This wouldn't necessarily mar a Bold slider launch, but it would certainly complicate it, from the retail perspective. And the iPhone is really AT&T's "golden handheld" at this point, so if one device is going to get short shrifted there, you can bet it'll be the BlackBerry.
Both AT&T and T-Mobile are also expected to begin selling RIM's new BlackBerry Pearl 9100 in the coming weeks, as well, so AT&T should already have another new BlackBerry to market to customers. On the surface, it doesn't really seem to make sense for AT&T to squeeze so many competing device launches together into such a small period.
If the BGR release rumors are currently accurate, and RIM and AT&T are roughly targeting a mid- to late-June release, I'd say it's more likely that launch gets bumped up a bit to mid-July or early August. (Note: I was correct when I predicted the original Bold slider launch-rumors were way off.)
Though no pricing details have been announced, you can expect RIM's new Bold 9800 slider to sell for around $200 with a new contract.
And RIM should make the BlackBerry Bold 9800 slider official in the coming weeks.