The next few months will be vital for the future of Research In Motion. As well chronicled at InformationWeek, the company is in a race against time to get the BlackBerry 10 platform released and into the hands of potential customers.
The dates for delivering the phone to carriers — which require months to test and ready it for commercial release — have constantly slid. The biggest downside for RIM is that the original goal of selling during the holiday season was missed.
The InformationWeek story describes CEO Thorsten Heins’ direct efforts in this carrier certification process, which now is under way. The quicker carriers sign on, the faster the BlackBerry 10 will be available and the better the company’s chances of survival. The story finishes by asking how the carriers likely will react:
It will be interesting to see how the launch unfolds. Will RIM wait until most or all of the major U.S. operators have approved the platform, or will it launch as soon as one carrier gives it the green light? Will each carrier offer variations of the same phone, or will the differences be significant? The answer to these and many other questions will hopefully be answered before too long.
RIM better hurry, and push carriers as hard as it can. The Washington Post reports that the Pentagon is deploying Apple and Android-based devices, a clear indication — not that another really was needed — that RIM is being marginalized. Chances to reverse that momentum, which already are fading, will disappear if the devices don’t become available during the first quarter of 2013.
All is not lost, however. There are a couple of reasons that RIM may catch some breaks from the carriers. Carriers wield much of the power in the wireless game, and have reason to be in RIM’s corner. Carriers want nothing more than to have a third strong player after Apple and Android. Even vendors using Android most likely support a strong third player due to distrust built by Google’s purchase of Motorola Mobility.
The other advantage that RIM has in its desire to become the third mobile device player is that a tremendous amount of the company’s infrastructure already is deployed. For many years BlackBerry had a near monopoly on business-oriented smartphone services. It was the most secure and sophisticated player. Of course, only some of that infrastructure will be usable for BlackBerry 10.
The bottom line is that BlackBerry, despite all its problems, still is in a position to be a player. BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones summed up both the challenge and the good will that BlackBerry still has:
With Android and Apple now grabbing most of that market, the road back looks hard - and that is if you ignore the much better-funded Windows Phone platform. I know plenty of people who are anything but ashamed to own a Blackberry - as I left my office to interview Mr Heins, a colleague told me to tell him he couldn't live without his.That position is enhanced by the likely desire of the carriers to see it happen.
The next few months will determine if that good will — which exists among both carriers and end users — is built upon or fades away.