for-phone-onlyfor-tablet-portrait-upfor-tablet-landscape-upfor-desktop-upfor-wide-desktop-up offers new BlackBerry Torch for $100, well below AT&T recently listed the price of the new BlackBerry Torch 9800 at $100, half the price charged by AT&T, prompting some critics to suggest that the device is already failing in some fashion.

The BlackBerry Torch 9800 first went on sale Aug. 12

The move comes after some lukewarm early reviews of the BlackBerry Torch 9800 , along with some concerns that the $200 price tag was too high, especially when compared to devices like like the $200 Motorola Droid 2 Android smartphone that has a larger screen and more powerful processor than the Research in Motion device.

Goldman Sachs called the launch of the new Torch “underwhelming” while estimates from both RBC Capital Markets and Stifel Nicolaus showed that sales for the first weekend were about 150,000 .

By comparison, 1.7 million iPhone 4 devices were sold by multiple carriers in five countries during its first weekend of availability.

Despite the unassuming first weekend numbers for the Torch, several analysts said it’s too early to call it a failure. “To say after one week that the Torch is a failure is a real stretch,” said Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates.

Several analysts noted that the new BlackBerry device will be most interesting to RIM’s typical business user base, and those users don’t typically make quick buying decisions. In fact, some IT departments could review the device for months before making a decision.

Michael Gartenberg, analyst at Altimeter Research,’s move to price the new Torch at $100 is but one more example of putting a popular device on sale at a deep discount. “It has happened many times with hot smartphones -- Amazon puts them on sale well below what the carrier charges,” Gartenberg said.

Several industry sources and analysts said is most likely buying the smartphones directly from Torch-maker Research in Motion, and not from carrier AT&T. Gartenberg said that RIM is likely not setting the lower price for the Torch, meaning could be selling them at a loss.

However, Gold said that it us far more likely that RIM has set the price low enough for to make money, while helping to get the device widely distributed as soon as possible.

Gold reasoned that AT&T’s designation as the exclusive carrier for the Torch will be for a short duration, and that selling the Torch through will reach customers on the fringes who don’t want to visit an AT&T store. Nonetheless, Gold acknowledged, “I am surprised Amazon dropped the price by half.” did not respond to requests to comment on its pricing of the device.

An AT&T spokesman would not comment on the price or estimates of first weekend sales, but added, “We think the Torch is a breakthrough device that will appeal to consumers and businesses.”

Gartenberg believes RIM still needs to make future BlackBerry devices more “sexy” for business users, as he described in a recent Computerworld column . He suggested a larger screen and more powerful processor and a focus on attracting better apps and games to add needed sex appeal, he said.

He did say that the new BlackBerry software, version 6, “is a good stake in the ground to drive things forward.”

“RIM has a lot to do before BlackBerry is going to be considered a market leader again,” he added. “They are in the middle of the pack now, but not as bad as people think they are.”

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen , or subscribe to Matt’s RSS feed . His e-mail address is .

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