by Al Sacco

RIM BlackBerry “9000” Sneak Peek: Front-Facing Camera, Videoconferencing?

Apr 16, 20083 mins
Data Center

Rumors surrounding Research In Motion’s(RIM) next BlackBerry smartphone have been circulating throughout the Web and the blogosphere for months now. First, we heard the device could include a touch screen and 3G capability. Then a newly-uncovered RIM patent got bloggers speculating about a device with a slider keyboard. The list goes on.

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By now, I dismiss most of these rumors as just that, but the latest one caught my eye. A Spanish blogger by the name of Luis Rodriguez, who purportedly got his hands on the device, says it has a front-facing camera that could enable it to be used for videoconferencing.

Cool stuff, indeed, if it’s true. BlackBerry-based videoconferencing could be extremely valuable to both businesspeople and consumers for obvious reasons. But I kind of doubt this report’s validity. Here are a couple of reasons why:

First of all, a number of images have surfaced of the new BlackBerry “9000”—I put 9000 in quotes, because nobody really knows if this is the name RIM will give its newest toy—and not one of them, at least that I’ve seen, shows a front-facing camera.

an image of what's rumored to be the BlackBerry 9000
The RIM BlackBerry 9000?

Videoconferencing over a cellular network, and running the associated application, would take some serious battery power because of the constant transfer of data packets over 3G, plus the fact that the screen would remain lit and a speaker would likely be used for audio. That means RIM would have to resolve these reported power issues before it releases the device, which I might say, is taking the BlackBerry-maker a very long time. (Tick, tock, tick, tock.) And the device could require an upgraded speaker, as well, as the existing speakers in RIM gadgets aren’t exactly high quality. This better speaker would eat up even more power.

So unless all users of the new device are expected to have a charging station handy at all times, and maybe even a Bluetooth headset, videoconferencing for an extended period of time—even for an hour-long meeting—would require a nearby electrical outlet. And that just defeats the point, because you’d need to be stationary to use it for longer than a few minutes here and there.

It is worth noting, however, that such functionality would be a clear differentiator between RIM’s new device and the iPhone, which is increasingly moving into RIM’s space in the smartphone market. It would certainly do RIM well to come up with something that draws attention away from Apple’s uber device–before the release of the 3G iPhone, which could come within the next couple months.

That’s just my two cents. What do you think? Is this simply another rumor to add to the pile?

If not, would BlackBerry

videoconferencing point you in the direction of a RIM device instead of an iPhone, Treo or other smartphone?