BlackBerry Will Have a New WebKit-based Browser…Soon!

By now I’m convinced that, just like CES, the Mobile World Congress is all about making claims about products that aren’t going to hit the market for at least another six months. Yesterday, it was Symbian 3.0 and Microsoft’s (s msft) Windows Phone 7 and today it’s about the BlackBerry. Research in Motion (s RIMM) co-CEO Mike Lazaridis during his keynote at the conference in Barcelona said that his company is going to launch a new WebKit-based browser. Soon!

I could have told you that — after all last August RIM bought a startup, Torch Mobile, whose sole business was — you guessed it, making Webkit-based browsers. While he waxed eloquent about the browser (you’ll see how fast it downloads, how quickly it renders and how smooth it scrolls and zooms in, etc.), he didn’t give any specifics as to when it would be available.

If you ask me, RIM not having a decent browser is a travesty. When compared to those on the iPhone (s aapl), Android (s goog) phones and Palm Pre (s palm), the current BlackBerry browser is something out of the last century — slow and pretty much useless. How long before casual BlackBerry users start to defect to other platforms, especially Android, which will soon be offered on a whole slew of new touch- and keyboard-based web-ready phones?

The bigger question is, does RIM have the ability to innovate? The company made Storm as a response to Apple. It was late in launching an App Store, even though it had developers writing for its platform. It let Apple come up with the storefront idea. And it bought Torch Mobile about six months ago, and still no browser. But hey, it makes for a great speech in front of the world media.

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