Thunder, a touch-screen Blackberry, to be launched by the end of 2008

Research In Motion Ltd. (RIM), the brain behind BlackBerry, is planning to launch a sleek touch-screen version of Blackberry in the third quarter of 2008 in response to the iPhone by Apple Inc., which is quickly climbing up the popularity charts.

This version of the wireless e-mail device would be called Thunder. RIM plans to sign exclusive contracts with Vodafone PLC in most of the countries around the world and Verizon Wireless in the United States for marketing this touch-screen phone.

Although there has not yet been an official confirmation of this plan by RIM officials, the co-CEO Jim Balsillie had mentioned in February this year that the company would consider launching a touch-screen Blackberry if its customers asked for it.

Further, just last week, Ontario-based RIM announced a sleek smartphone with a keyboard that targets businessmen. This version of Blackberry is named Bold.

Now, if RIM launches a touch-screen version of Blackberry, it will be able to meet its goal of diversifying its client base beyond the conventional businessmen and lawyers who form a big chunk of its clientele as of now.

However, if Thunder is launched in the third quarter of this year, it will face stiff competition from the iPhone as Apple Inc. is planning to launch its iPhone in several countries next month.