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RIM out to show it has not run out of pixie dust

Disney World looks old, there's no getting around it.

I used to come to Orlando with my parents when I was young, and we'd spend a good chunk of the summer at the Magic Kingdom and its various neighbouring parks. It was awesome.

These days, you go to Disney and you can't help but notice that Mickey's house needs serious renovation, that the "It's a Small World" animatronic kids are growing stubble.

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This is exactly the vibe that Research In Motion is trying to avoid. As Canada's most important tech company comes to Orlando this week to host the most important conference of its calendar year, it hopes to show the world that its best is yet ahead of it.

Most years, the Wireless Enterprise Symposium is just a show-and-tell for RIM's business customers. This year, however, most everyone is focused on what the company has in store for consumers.

By some measures, RIM has about half of the 10 best-selling smart phones in North America right now. But it's not right now that analysts and investors are interested in: they want to know what RIM's doing to compete two and three years from now, where by most expectations, consumer smart phone adoption will be in full stride.

RIM currently lags its competitors Apple and Google in several key metrics when it comes to the consumer market -- most notably, the number of apps available on the BlackBerry compared to the Android and iPhone environment, as well as the quality of the web browsing experience.

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And yet, RIM shows no signs of giving up the fight to win consumers. The company may have been built on business and government customers, but it carries several advantages over from those worlds. For one thing, the company has some of the most efficient data-handling systems anywhere -- a big boost as customers and carriers fret over soaring bandwidth costs. RIM also has one of the most secure handhelds in the world, something that's likely to prove a good selling point as more consumers use mobile devices to make purchases.

Look for RIM execs to leverage these advantages this week, as well as address some of the deficiencies on the consumer side.

After all, this isn't the first time RIM has faced doubt as to whether it really could compete against big global players in a new market, and it has yet to prove doubters right.

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As I type this, we're in the Orlando Marriott waiting for the week's first big keynote, from co-CEO Mike Lazaridis. The atmosphere is decidedly lower-key than the high drama of big tech events such as CES, but then again this is a conference focused on a single company (and the admission price is four figures).

For the most part, the week is composed of speeches and demonstrations -- there are a whole bunch of developers and other RIM partners who've set up shop at WES. But there's also some fun to be had, including a big evening bash featuring and Joss Stone, with CanCon provided by Bedouin Soundclash.

And Disney World is just across the street.

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