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BlackBerry Fund Shows Signs of Life

SAN FRANCISCO -- After two months of lying dormant, the $150 million BlackBerry Partners Fund designed to stimulate developer interest in Research In Motion's (RIMM) BlackBerry device is showing signs of life.

In the next few weeks, the fund will announce its first investments in three to four companies that are looking to create applications for the BlackBerry platform, says Kevin Talbot, RBC vice president and co-manager of the BlackBerry Partners Fund.

The fund, announced on May 12, has RIM as a limited partner and is being managed by JLA Ventures and RBC Venture Partners.

It is targeting investments in the $2 million to $5 million range, although there are many early-stage opportunities where the need for capital could be even smaller, Talbot says.

The announcement should help soothe critics and BlackBerry fans who have been left wondering about the funds' status since it was launched.

Since the fund was launched, little information has come from RIM or RBC. The fund's bare-bones Web site has little but a link to a press release and a generic e-mail address.

"This is not a good sign," says Carmi Levy, senior vice president, strategic consulting for AR Communications. "In the context of what RIM's competitors are doing to establish their own developer communities, it represents a potential threat to the BlackBerry platform's continued strength if it is left unchecked."

Meanwhile, RIM's most feared rival, Apple (AAPL), has steadily been building up the buzz for its iPhone App store that allows third-party software makers to create and distribute applications for the iPhone.

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