On the eve of BlackBerry 10

Monday 14 January 2013 | 14:28 CET | Market Commentary
The imminent launch of BlackBerry 10 has been overshadowed by a new global disruption of Blackberry services. Research In Motion is already testing the new operating system with operators and recently announced that it will launch at least six devices running BlackBerry 10 this year.  

Luckily for RIM the disruption was of short duration, unlike the technical problems it suffered in October 2011. BlackBerry users were then left for days without services, with especially the region Europe, Middle East and Africa affected. This raised numerous questions about the company which had built its USP around a secure network. In the end it provided compensation in the form of free apps worth USD 100, and business users received a month free services. 

The consequences of the latest disruption to services will be limited, but it's far from good PR for BlackBerry. RIM has been working hard on getting its new mobile OS ready and expects to launch it on at least six devices this year. On 30 January it will unveil the new RIM, which under CEO Thorsten Heins has been struggling to face up to Apple’s iPhone, the growing number of Android devices and Windows Phone.

An initial step has already been made to make the most of the new OS: RIM will not offer any of its new BlackBerrys on an exclusive basis with a single operator. That means its low-, mid- and high-end devices will be launched on the market through multiple operator channels. The American operators AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile USA and Sprint have already said they will carry the BlackBerry 10 devices in their ranges. In the Netherlands, Vodafone at least has said it will launch phones running BlackBerry 10.

It's no secret that mobile operators would like to see a third ecosystem emerge, alongside iOS and Android. And preferably one that works without problems and supports the mobile providers' aims. BlackBerry 10 is currently being tested on 150 mobile networks worldwide, and the first reports about the new operating system are positive. 

In addition to the strong relationships built up with operators over the years, the company has worked the past year on developer relations. This appears to be bearing fruit. BlackBerry App World already counts around 70,000 applications for BlackBerry 10, RIM announced at the end of last year. Still relatively little for current standards, but RIM promises better quality and higher revenues for developers.

With all of these efforts RIM has a good starting point to become the third ecosystem after Android and iOS. Windows Phone, dependent on the performance of its hardware partners, does not for the moment represent any threat to RIM.

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