But firm expects a tough financial quarter ahead

RIM shows off new handsets and apps

Research In Motion has announced a series of devices and applications at the start of its BlackBerry World conference, having warned financial markets that it expects a tough quarter ahead.

New handsets? Those would be the BlackBerry Bold 9900 and 9930 smartphones, which will be the first to use RIM’s new BlackBerry 7 operating system.

The handsets will be available this summer, and both sport a combination of physical QWERTY keyboard and touchscreen. They include 1.2GHz processors, will be able to record and play back up to 720p HD video, and will have built-in NFC technology.

The BlackBerry 7 software includes a beefed-up browser, voice-activated search, and a new feature called BlackBerry Balance, which divides work and personal content on the phone – aimed at corporate users who want to also use apps like Facebook and Twitter.

RIM also announced a pair of apps for its BlackBerry PlayBook tablet at the start of its conference. Facebook for BlackBerry PlayBook will be a native Facebook app for the 7-inch tablet, giving it an advantage over iPad and Android, where Facebook has not made native apps yet. RIM has developed the PlayBook app, and expects it to be popular, given that 30 million people use the Facebook for BlackBerry smartphone version.

The second new app is RIM’s version of Apple’s FaceTime video chat application – Google has also just announced an Android equivalent. BlackBerry PlayBook Video Chat will let users of the tablet make video calls to friends, family and work colleagues, and will be released this week.

These are unlikely to be the last announcements from BlackBerry World this week, as RIM seeks to dispel the gloom from its announcement last Thursday that its fiscal Q1 will be worse than previously predicted.

The company said that it expects BlackBerry shipments to be ’at the lower end’ of its predicted range of 13.5 – 14.5 million shipments for Q1, and that the balance will tip more towards cheaper handsets. RIM also anticipates generating Q1 revenues ’slightly below’ its previously predicted $5.2 – $5.6 billion.

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