Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) started sending out test versions of its BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10 software and pre-production BlackBerry 10 smartphones to a select group of 120 enterprise and government customers.
The testing of the software and RIM's first touchscreen BlackBerry 10 model comes a little more than a month before RIM will formally unveil the new platform, on which it is staking its financial future. The company has been busy drumming up carrier support as well as support from enterprise and government customers. Earlier this month the company announced another program, called the BlackBerry 10 Ready Program, to get its enterprise customers ready--and signed up--for BlackBerry 10.
RIM said that the new pilot program, which is available by invitation only, involves customers in a variety of industries including financial, government, insurance, healthcare, manufacturing, media and distribution. RIM said the mix includes 64 Fortune 500 companies. The BlackBerry maker is both trying to wow potential customers and allow them to get comfortable with the new platform and user interface.
"We're keenly targeting the launch of our touchscreen device and we want to bring that experience to our clients," Richard Piasentin, managing director of RIM's U.S. business, told Bloomberg. The pilot program is not a replacement for actual commercial orders, but he said "these clients have agreed to implement the full solution into their infrastructure," which shows how committed they are.
BlackBerry 10 is a full redesign of RIM's existing BlackBerry operating system. The new platform features a new user interface, BlackBerry Flow, which allows users to scroll seamlessly between apps. BlackBerry Peek allows users to glance at another application without leaving the one a user is currently running. And BlackBerry Hub combines users' various inboxes, messages and notifications.
Meanwhile, RIM is marching toward its launch of the new platform. The company sent out invitations to the media for its BB10 unveiling event, which will take place Jan. 30 in New York City. RIM is expected to announce two devices initially--one with a physical keyboard and one without--and then have carriers on multiple continents launch them shortly thereafter. Rogers Wireless in Canada confirmed it will be among the first to launch the all-touch device on its LTE network early next year.
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