RIM will launch touch-screen BlackBerry in Q3: report

TORONTO (Reuters) - BlackBerry maker Research In Motion Ltd RIM.TORIMM.O plans to launch a touch-screen version of the wireless e-mail device in the third quarter as an answer to Apple Inc's AAPL.O iPhone, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

The device, known as the Thunder, is to be sold exclusively through Verizon Wireless in the U.S. and Vodafone PLC abroad, the Journal reported on its Web site, citing people familiar with the matter.

RIM declined to comment on the report, stating that it does not comment on rumors and speculation. Earlier this week, rumored details of a touch-screen BlackBerry surfaced on the Internet.

In February, RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie said the company may bring out a touch-screen device if customers want it.

This week, Waterloo, Ontario-based RIM announced its BlackBerry Bold, a sleek smartphone with a keyboard aimed at its core base of business users.

Introducing a touch-screen BlackBerry would put RIM in more direct competition with Apple’s popular iPhone. In the past, Balsillie has dismissed concerns that the iPhone could pose a serious competitive threat.

A touch-screen BlackBerry would also build on RIM’s continuing push into the broader retail market as it seeks to diversify its client base beyond the executives, lawyers and other professionals who have been its mainstay.

RIM shares closed C$1.60 higher at C$140.99 on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Thursday. On the Nasdaq, they gained $2.15 to finish at $140.71.

($1=$1 Canadian)

Reporting by Wojtek Dabrowski; editing by Renato Andrade