Amazon.com offers new BlackBerry Torch for $100, well below AT&T

Some analysts worry half price offer is a sign of weak acceptance; others say the future of RIM device is still bright

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Amazon.com recently listed the price of the new BlackBerry Torch 9800 at $100, half the price charged by AT&T, prompting some critics to suggest that the device is already failing in some fashion.

The BlackBerry Torch 9800 first went on sale Aug. 12

The Amazon.com move comes after some lukewarm early reviews of the BlackBerry Torch 9800, along with some concerns that the $200 price tag was too high, especially when compared to devices like like the $200 Motorola Droid 2 Android smartphone that has a larger screen and more powerful processor than the Research in Motion device.

Goldman Sachs called the launch of the new Torch "underwhelming" while estimates from both RBC Capital Markets and Stifel Nicolaus showed that sales for the first weekend were about 150,000.

By comparison, 1.7 million iPhone 4 devices were sold by multiple carriers in five countries during its first weekend of availability.

Despite the unassuming first weekend numbers for the Torch, several analysts said it's too early to call it a failure. "To say after one week that the Torch is a failure is a real stretch," said Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates.

Several analysts noted that the new BlackBerry device will be most interesting to RIM's typical business user base, and those users don't typically make quick buying decisions. In fact, some IT departments could review the device for months before making a decision.

Michael Gartenberg, analyst at Altimeter Research, Amazon.com's move to price the new Torch at $100 is but one more example of Amazon.com putting a popular device on sale at a deep discount. "It has happened many times with hot smartphones -- Amazon puts them on sale well below what the carrier charges," Gartenberg said.

Several industry sources and analysts said Amazon.com is most likely buying the smartphones directly from Torch-maker Research in Motion, and not from carrier AT&T. Gartenberg said that RIM is likely not setting the lower price for the Torch, meaning Amazon.com could be selling them at a loss.

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