Feature Article

October 31, 2012

BlackBerry Devices Hit Carriers for Pre-Launch Testing

The headline above reflects some good news – first and foremost, it means that the odds of Research in Motion (RIM) pulling another delaying action on the release of new BlackBerry devices virtually disappears – assuming of course that the carriers don’t discover any major issues that might result in a hardware design setback for RIM. We sincerely doubt that such a thing will happen.

As the headline notes, the company announced today that RIM has finally started carrier testing of its new BlackBerry 10 hardware, which also strongly suggests and implicitly notes that the company will in fact be able to deliver those new devices on its currently announced schedule – sometime in early Q1 2013, and more specifically towards the end of January 2013.

Carrier testing is typically a three month exercise in which the carriers and the vendor in question go back and forth on ensuring that the handset maker is delivering exactly what the carrier wants. In the old days RIM called most of the shots on this front – and was always able to impose what became known in the wireless industry as “the RIM tax” on devices – because they once flew off the shelves and delivered the only viable integrated email capability, carriers had no choice but to roll with the RIM tax and pay RIM more than what they paid other device manufacturers. Apple is the king here now, with its own iPhone tax.

Times have certainly changed, and as RIM has fallen hugely out of favor with consumers, it has had to deal with a significant role reversal – it is now the one that pays the RIM tax, in the way of subsidies to carriers through reduced costs to them in order to get carrier shelf space – which of course severely impacts RIM’s own margins, which in turn makes financial analysts ridiculously antsy and causes them to issue sell positions. RIM may very well have over 80 million subscribers today, but each of those subscribers delivers far less revenue per user than they once did.

The full text of CEO Thorsten Heins is as follows:

I’m very pleased to confirm that we have passed a critical milestone in the development of our brand new mobile computing platform, BlackBerry 10. In the last week, BlackBerry 10 achieved Lab Entry with more than 50 carriers – a key step in our preparedness for the launch of BlackBerry 10 in the first quarter of 2013. We made this commitment during our recent results conference call and we have delivered. This process will continue in the coming months as more carriers around the world formally evaluate the devices and our brand new software.

I have spent the last several weeks on the road visiting with carrier partners around the world to show them the BlackBerry 10 platform and to share with them our plans for launch. Their response has been tremendous. They are excited about the prospect of launching BlackBerry 10 in their markets. Our respective teams are now engaged on the technical and commercial preparation of the launch of BlackBerry 10 and the lab entry is an important milestone in that context.

The hard work will not stop here as we build towards launch. Our developer teams are continuing to generate momentum to bring a wealth of applications to BlackBerry 10, our enterprise teams have started to present BlackBerry 10 devices and services to our business customers, and our engineers are fully mobilized to ensure that BlackBerry 10 launches flawlessly in the first quarter of 2013.

With hardware being released to 50+ carriers, when can we begin to see leaked photos of the new devices? Does the world care enough to go through the trouble of finding and posting them? We’ll see. If they begin to show up it would suggest that perhaps RIM has managed to create some spiffy new hardware. On the other hand, if we begin to see leaked photos of anything that even remotely resembles yet another old Bold, run immediately to your brokerage app (or rather, pop in open in your likely non-RIM mobile device) and dump any and all RIM stock you may be holding on to immediately.

We surely hope that will not prove to be the case. We hope that RIM is able to demonstrate something truly exciting on the hardware front – without that hardware excitement whatever the BlackBerry 10 operating system might have to offer will be to no avail.

Good luck RIM!

Edited by Amanda Ciccatelli

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