The service, called Blackberry from BT Cellnet, runs on BT's 2.5G GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) network and is designed to allow users to be permanently connected to their e-mail accounts, regardless of location.
Users can send, receive and reply to e-mails in real time without having to dial in or log on, a facility that BT Cellnet has identified as a key point of difference with standalone handheld organisers currently on the market. The Blackberry device also includes a built-in keyboard which makes typing short messages easier than with traditional PDAs and mobile phones.
The Blackberry does not come with voice capabilities, but a BT Cellnet spokesman said this could be added with a simple software download. The company will evaluate demand for voice applications over the next few months before deciding whether to add them as standard, the spokesman added.
"Business people tell us one thing they want is to be able to control their e-mail on the move, in real time," said Chris Matteisen, director of business marketing and sales at BT Cellnet. "With Blackberry, you can stay on top of the e-mail mountain and get more out of your day without adding minutes and hours as the inbox grows."
RIM has also announced a partnership with Hewlett-Packard that will see the companies developing mobile printing applications for the Blackberry device and HP printers.
The initial application, called the HP Mobile Enterprise Printing application, will allow Blackberry users to print e-mails and e-mail attachments on network printers located within their business' intranet while they are away from their desk or office.
The companies said the application will support printing of the most popular e-mail attachment formats, including Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint files, Adobe PDF files and JPeg images.
"The combination of Blackberry's always-on wireless data and the HP Mobile Enterprise application creates a powerful tool that will help mobile professionals fully use the information they receive while away from their desks," said Mike Lazaridis, president and co-chief executive at RIM.
In other mobile news, Palm has announced the release of the M125, the company's latest entry-level handheld device.
The M125, which is based on version 4.0 of Palm's operating system, features dual expansion architecture, first introduced in the high-end M500 range, allowing both software and hardware add-ons.
Palm licensee Handspring has also announced the release of two new handheld devices in its Visor range.
The Visor Pro is a rechargeable, expandable device with 16Mbytes of memory - twice the storage capacity of other Palm-based handhelds. The Visor Neo is an entry-level device that is 50% faster than its predecessor, the Visor Deluxe, according to Handspring.
Both models feature the Springboard plug-and-play expansion slot, which increases the capability of the devices by allowing modules to be added.