Looks like RIM is seriously stepping up its game. Hot on the heels of its BlackBerry Bold announcement – its first major new model of the BlackBerry in more than a year – rumors are now rife that the company is planning to launch a touch-screen version of its popular wireless device in the third quarter of this year.

Dubbed Thunder, the device does completely away with the hardware keyboard and will be sold exclusively in the US through Verizon while Vodafone will be the exclusive agent abroad, according to a WSJ report. RIM has neither confirmed nor denied that the Thunder exists, but if the report is to be believed, and the device incorporates the Bold’s 3G and Wi-Fi capabilities, the product would be a direct rival to the iPhone.