Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) said it has delivered its forthcoming BlackBerry 10 platform to more than 50 carriers for lab certification, a critical step toward a launch planned for early next year.
RIM CEO Thorsten Heins disclosed the news in a statement late Wednesday. He noted that the lab certification 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," Heins said. "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."
RIM is hoping BB10 will help it claw back market share, especially in the North American market. According to research firm IDC, RIM's global smartphone market share dipped to 4.3 percent in the third quarter, down from 9.6 percent in the year-ago period.
"The hard work will not stop here as we build towards launch," Heins said. "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."
RIM's push to get carrier support for BB10 could be complicated by the fact that rival Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and its partners are gearing up for a major blitz around Microsoft's Windows Phone 8 launch. Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ), AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) and T-Mobile USA have all committed to launching multiple Windows Phones in the fourth quarter, which could give the platform momentum ahead of the BB10 launch, expected sometime in the first quarter.
Heins has said that RIM will launch with a "one-two punch" of BB10 devices: one that is an all-touch experience and one that has RIM's classic Qwerty keyboard. Within those two types, RIM will offer three different devices, a high-end device, a mid-tier device and a low-end device, for six total. RIM also revealed that its new BlackBerry Enterprise Server, BES 10, will support the new phones as well as older BlackBerry devices.
RIM will need to work quickly. The Pentagon, a longtime BlackBerry customer, recently said that it will continue to support "large numbers" of BlackBerry devices while it moves forward with a plan to open up to Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone and devices running Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android. The Department of Defense too is asking companies to submit bids for software that can securely manages iPhones and Android devices.
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