RIM to hit multiple price points with range of BlackBerry 10 devices

LAS VEGAS--While all eyes are on the first two BlackBerry 10 devices Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) will introduce later this month, RIM plans to eventually hit a range of price points at the high, middle and lower end of the market with its BB10 devices, according to a senior executive.

RIM plans to release at least six BB10 devices in 2013, beginning with an all-touch device and a phone with a Qwerty keyboard, which it will announce Jan. 30, according to CMO Frank Boulben. The company does not have any exclusive relationships with carriers for BB10 in any markets, he said, and thus will be free to go after different market segments with its new platform and devices. "We intend over time as we transition the portfolio to have a full range of devices," he said in an interview with FierceWireless here at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show.  

RIM has framed BlackBerry 10 as the key to the company's future, and many analysts think RIM's very existence will rest largely on how the platform is received by carriers and, ultimately, enterprises and consumers. Boulben expressed confidence, noting than 150 carriers are testing BB10 phones around the world.  

Boulben said RIM has an existing BlackBerry subscriber base of 79 million, as well as a proven track record and strong relationships with carriers. "They very much believe that we can be the third platform," he said.

The RIM CMO said BB10 will launch with at least 70,000 applications and has strong developer support. RIM has been targeting the top 600 apps in major markets and Boulben said that BB10 will support roughly 90 percent of those apps.

RIM plans to highlight its strengths in communication, typing, instant messaging and security with the new platform, Boulben said. At the same time, RIM has consciously been working to improve the weakest points of its older phones: lack of cutting-edge hardware, especially for multimedia; a sub-par Web browsing experience; and a lack of apps. "We will be competitive," he said.

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.

RIM captured 5.3 percent of the global smartphone market in the third quarter of 2012, according to research firm Gartner, down from 11 percent in the year-ago period. Boulben acknowledged that RIM is taking a risk by introducing a new user interface with BB10, but that a hyperconnected segment of the market wants a new, innovative UI, and that it will work to educate both retail sales representatives and consumers on the new UI.

When the phones launch, RIM plans to introduce a global marketing campaign, with elements including TV advertisements that specifically highlight and explain the BB10 gestural UI.

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