If it is going to successfully make the transition to its new BlackBerry 10 platform launching at the end of next month, Research In Motion must find a way to keep its corporate customers. On Thursday, the Canadian company introduced an incentive program for businesses to switch to new BlackBerry smartphones.
The initiative, called the BlackBerry 10 Ready Program, will be rolled out in phases. The BlackBerry 10 Ready Offer and the Ready Webcast Series are available now, and the Blackberry Enterprise Server License Trade Up and Readiness Services will be available before the BB10 launch on Jan. 30.
Bryan Lee, senior director of Enterprise, said in a statement that the company remains "committed to our enterprise customers and want to provide them with a head start" for the new platform.
Tech Support, Migration Tools
Under the Ready Offer, customers with Tech Support at the Advantage level or higher can receive a free BB10 smartphone. In order to qualify, they will need to install and run BB Mobile Fusion, which will be replaced by BB Enterprise Service 10, and successfully complete an online learning course. In November, RIM said BES 10 was being beta-tested at nearly two dozen corporations and government agencies.
The weekly Webcast series, offered in several languages, presents information and answers questions that businesses might have about the new enterprise product portfolio. The Enterprise Server License Trade Up provides buyers of BB10 smartphones with a free trade up of their existing Enterprise Service licenses on a one-to-one basis for Enterprise Service 10, until the end of next year. An online tool for the License Trade Up will be available next month.
The Readiness Services are intended to smooth the migration path to BB10, including application development services and tools for change management and planning migration, and they will also be available starting in January.
Last month, RIM got some highly visible bad news about adoption of its new platform, when the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board announced that it would discontinue using BlackBerry phones in favor of Apple's iPhone 5.
The agency posted a notice that said BlackBerry units had been "failing both at inopportune times and at an unacceptable rate," which were not appropriate for the needs of an agency that investigates airline and other kinds of transportation accidents. RIM has said that it has a million users among governmental agencies in North America, and it expects at least 400,000 of those users to transition to BB10.
But the company has also received some good news in recent weeks relating to BB10. Peter Misek, an analyst with the investment group Jefferies & Co., issued a report last month in which he said he was "surprised by the strongly positive initial feedback on BB10" that the company had received from carriers. He said he had anticipated a "more muted response," since BB10 is "two years late and RIM's market share has plunged from 20 percent to 5 percent."
Also, RIM announced last month that BB10 had received FIPS (Federal Information Processing Standard) 140-2 certification from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, a security credential confirming a certified encryption technique.
This marked the first time a RIM product had been so certified prior to its release, and it means that U.S. government agencies can start to use the devices as soon as they are on the market.