by Al Sacco

Upcoming BlackBerry Accessories: New Bluetooth Headsets, Collaboration Tools

May 06, 20094 mins
MobileSmall and Medium Business

Today I sat down with Research In Motion’s (RIM) VP of Advanced Accessories, Antoine Boucher, at the company’s Wireless Enterprise Symposium (WES), and though he was mostly tight-lipped on upcoming products, I got a few juicy nuggets. Specifically, I saw an unreleased–and unannounced–RIM Bluetooth headset with some unique new features.

The headset feature that really caught my eye–errr, ear–is its ability to stream audio content from your BlackBerry device, including music, and podcasts. It’s not great quality audio, nor is it really supposed to be, according to Boucher, but it’s a nice feature none-the-less. And if you use a GPS app like TeleNav Navigator on your device, you’ll also be able to send spoken driving directions to your Bluetooth headset, Boucher says.

There’s no official name for it quite yet, but it’s expected this summer and will feature two microphones and noise-cancelling technology. It looks very similar to BlueAnt’s Q1 headset, but is slightly wider and all black, with a large, silver BlackBerry seven-dot-logo on its outside face, directly opposite the earpiece that fits into your ear. It also has a depressed strip running horizontally from its back to its front on the outer face, next to the RIM logo, which is part of a large button.

Boucher says the Bluetooth earpiece is meant to be simple and effective, and it shows. There are only two buttons on the product: an on/off switch on the bottom; and a main function button–mentioned above–which will presumably allow you to answer/end calls and more.

There’s an over-the-ear loop, as well, but it appears to be removable. It will not have any blinking light to indicate connectivity, and this lack of flashy extras will be a trend in new BlackBerry accessories, as the company wants to remain true to its professionally-oriented customer base. And it will be “moderately priced,” in order to undercut some of the competitors in the Bluetooth space.

It charges via micro USB–this will be another trend, according to Boucher; bye-bye mini USB. That’s good news for Storm and Curve 8900 owners as they’ll already have compatible chargers and sync cables.

Boucher says the company will start a new push toward more and better BlackBerry accessories in June, when it will make a number of consumer- and enterprise-related announcements, including the release of the “BlackBerry Bluetooth Vehicle Visor Mount”–which may or may not be an official name.

RIM will attempt to convince its BlackBerry customers to purchase the company’s new accessories instead of products from existing market leaders, by making those products interact with the BlackBerry operating system in new and different ways that would be impossible for other devices. Again, Boucher wouldn’t talk specifics, but he seemed very confident that some of these BlackBerry-specific features will turn heads.

Currently the new Bluetooth headset works with non-BlackBerry handhelds, but Boucher says he hasn’t made the decision yet on whether or not to make future accessories BlackBerry-specific.

The word “collaboration” also came up very frequently during our conversation. Boucher says RIM is putting a lot of effort into collaboration, or content sharing via BlackBerry, and we’ll start to see some of the fruits of its labors in the near future. Specifically, Boucher hinted that the company is working on media sharing services, as well as information sharing.

Boucher wouldn’t say whether he was talking about the rumored “BlackBerry Groups” service. But I feel confident from our chat–and his split-second grin when I asked him about it–that it is exactly what he was referring to. RIM is working on some interesting ways to share personal and business information,

according to Boucher, and that is more or less what BlackBerry Groups seems to be designed for. From the sound of things, we just might see the Groups app sooner than later…