RIM's next-generation smartphone platform may arrive even later than hoped, dimming the BlackBerry maker's chances for a turnaround.
Research In Motion insists that it is on target to deliver BlackBerry 10, its next-generation smartphone platform, during the first quarter of 2013. The problem? RIM's first fiscal quarter ends in February, and analysts are worried about what will happen if RIM doesn't deliver BlackBerry 10 before March.
"Management has been silent as to the timing of the launch within CQ1," Jefferies analyst Peter Misek said Tuesday. "But we believe plans for a January launch have now been pushed back until March, which means BB10 will miss RIM's February quarter."
Misek is mostly right about the timing, though not for the reasons he might think.
Last month, I detailed what RIM has to do to get its BlackBerry 10 platform and devices to market.
RIM CEO Thorsten Heins said during the company's recent quarterly results call with analysts and media that it is submitting BlackBerry 10 devices to wireless network operators for carrier certification starting this month. The process to certify smartphones on any given carrier's network takes anywhere from 120 to 160 days. Devices don't go on sale the moment they are certified. They need a bit more time to finish cooking after the certification process is completed.
Some simple math tells us that if RIM really does get its BB10 devices to carriers for certifications this month (let's say October 15 for the sake of argument), January 15 is the absolute earliest those devices might be ready for sale. But that's not very likely. It's more likely that it will be February 15 before the devices are certified to run on the wireless networks. Then throw in the time it takes to flash all the devices with the last build of the firmware, box them up, and ship them to the carriers.
At best, RIM is looking at late February before it can launch BlackBerry 10, if not early March.
AllThingsD, which reported Misek's comments Tuesday, said that its own sources are saying "March" for RIM's BB10 launch, too. Even if RIM gets BB10 to market during the first quarter, he's not convinced it will succeed.
"We still believe a third ecosystem will emerge, but the probability of BB10 filling the role is wholly dependent on whether RIM can convince Samsung, Huawei, and ZTE to license," Misek said. "We think Samsung and some other Asian OEMs might be interested, but we think they see better terms and entry points months from now."
In other words, if RIM is the sole maker of BB10 devices, it might not make it. Misek thinks that RIM needs to license BB10 to other OEMs, which would then help the ecosystem with their own hardware. But Misek is even bearish on whether or not that model can succeed. (The other two ecosystems are, of course, Apple's iOS and Google's Android.)
Meanwhile, Microsoft will kick off sales of Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 late this month or early next month. Its ecosystem will have a four-month head start on BB10. Given the push Microsoft has made to unify the Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 experience, it has a better shot to become the third ecosystem.
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