With its critical launch of the BlackBerry 10 ecosystem scheduled for the end of January, Research In Motion received some good news this week. Several of the top U.S. mobile carriers have already announced support for RIM's new BlackBerry devices, and, RIM said Thursday it is working with more than 150 carriers worldwide.
Three announced carriers -- Verizon Wireless, AT&T and T-Mobile USA -- will be essential partners in RIM's comeback effort. In addition, Sprint spokesperson Mark Elliott contacted us with word that Sprint also plans to bring the BlackBerry 10 to customers later this year, with more details soon to come.
Lowell McAdam, chief executive at Verizon Communications, recently told Reuters news service that his company is "hopeful" about the quality of the BB10 devices, while T-Mobile USA Chief Executive John Legere said his company is "extremely optimistic that it's going to be a successful product." Legere said T-Mobile's business customers are "extremely interested in it."
Six Phones this Year
RIM has indicated that at least two new BB10 phones will accompany the launch presentation on Jan. 30. Earlier this week, Chief Marketing Officer Frank Boulben told news media that at least six BB10 phones total will be released this year, at a range of price points.
Last week, the company raised some eyebrows when it and T-Mobile announced that the new BlackBerry Curve 9315 would be released on Jan. 23, one week before the big BB10 launch. Some observers judged the announcement as verification that the company intends to keep its BlackBerry 7 platform around, and that the new BB10 devices will, at least at first, not include low-end devices like the Curve 9315.
This view is supported by statements made by RIM CEO Thorsten Heins during the annual shareholders' meeting in July. He noted the success his company has had in emerging markets with such low-end BlackBerry 7 devices as the Curve. He added that BB10 will begin with high-end devices, but that the BB7 platform would stay alive until a "full portfolio" of devices was released for the new platform.
Market Share: 7.3 Percent
The turnaround in the company's fortunes, if it comes, will not be a moment too soon. The company's current U.S. market share, according to market researcher comScore, is 7.3 percent and dropping, down 9.3 percent from November of 2011. In December, the company said it scored an unwanted first -- losing a million users in a single quarter.
The last few months have seen a variety of efforts by RIM to stem its erosion. In December, for instance, it announced the launch of the BB10 Tech Review program, under which 120 selected enterprise and governmental customers began beta testing a limited number of pre-production touchscreen BB10 smartphones, using RIM's new enterprise mobility management solution, BB Enterprise Service 10.
Also in December, it released the gold version of its software development kit and introduced an incentive effort, the BB 10 Ready Program, designed to encourage businesses to switch to the new BlackBerry smartphones.
RIM has received FIPS 140-2 security certification for BB10, the first time a RIM product has been so certified prior to its release. It means that U.S. government agencies can start using the devices as soon as they are on the market.