Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) has registered more than 1,600 North American businesses through its BlackBerry 10 Ready Program, an early indicator that RIM is getting its core enterprise users to buy into its new platform. The announcement from RIM is the latest tidbit of news the company is dripping out ahead of its Jan. 30 formal unveiling of BB10.
Of the 1,600 enterprises, more than 1,000 have already started using the program since it was introduced in early December, Bryan Lee, RIM's senior director of enterprise accounts, told Bloomberg. The program is aimed directly at getting enterprises to sign on to BB10 and deploy it when it is commercially available. Lee said these companies will be among the early adopters of BB10.
RIM was "very enthused by the engagement and response of our customer base" to the program, Lee separately told Reuters. Lee told Bloomberg that RIM is going after its "whole base" to sign up for BB10 training. "Obviously we want get to our existing customers and make sure we shout this from the rooftops," he said, though he declined to give specific figures for how BB10 training is proceeding outside of North America.
Bloomberg pointed out that, in its 2012 annual report, RIM counted more than 250,000 BlackBerry Enterprise servers across the globe.
While RIM is clearly trying to spark consumer interest in BlackBerry 10 through new, high-powered devices and software, the enterprise business remains RIM's bread and butter, in large part because of BlackBerry's widely praised security features. If RIM is unable to convert a large percentage of its existing business and government customers to BB10, its new platform, RIM will face an even steeper climb in regaining market share. According to research firm Gartner, RIM saw its global smartphone market share shrink to 5.3 percent in the third quarter, down from 11 percent in the third quarter of 2011.
RIM's Ready program allows enterprise customers that purchase BlackBerry 10 smartphones to trade up their existing BES licenses on a one-for-one basis for free, until Dec. 31, 2013. RIM also said that it will provide tools and application development services starting in January.
Further, BlackBerry customers with BlackBerry Technical Support at the "Advantage" level or higher will be eligible to receive a free BlackBerry 10 smartphone (though the limit is one free device per company). Customers will need to install and run BlackBerry Mobile Fusion (which will be succeeded by BES 10) and successfully complete an online learning course to qualify.
For BB10 to succeed, support from enterprises will need to be mirrored by an aggressive push from carriers. Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ), AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T), Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) and T-Mobile USA each confirmed earlier this month they will support BB10, though it is unclear when they will roll out their first devices. Rogers, Bell Mobility and Telus in Canada have all committed to BB10, as have all four of the major operators in the United Kingdom. RIM intends for BB10 to be a global launch, with its first two devices--a touchscreen smartphone and one with a Qwerty keyboard--launching in February. RIM CMO Frank Boulben told FierceWireless RIM plans to release around six BB10 devices in 2013.
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.
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