RIM Promises BlackBerry 10 Handsets Shortly After Launch

RIM insists that its BlackBerry 10 smartphones are nearly ready and will ship soon after the big January 30 launch event.
Research In Motion expects that its BlackBerry 10 smartphones will hit retail shelves "not too long after" the planned January 30 launch event. The launch comes nearly a year after RIM first hoped to launch its next-generation smartphone platform. The platform saw numerous delays, though RIM has consistently said BB10 will launch during the first quarter of 2013.

"We're working hard right now to make sure all the bits and pieces and all the details are in place for the date, when the devices will be available for consumers and enterprises," RIM Chief Operating Officer Kristian Tear told Reuters.

RIM submitted its new smartphones to more than 50 wireless network operators around the world in late October. The carriers need to test, certify and approve the devices for use on their networks. The process takes several months and should be wrapping up by the time January 30 rolls around.

RIM will debut two new smartphones. One will feature just a touch screen for user input and the second will have a QWERTY keyboard. The touch-based device is expected to launch first, and the QWERTY model will follow several weeks later. Tear said that lower-cost versions of the two devices will be available later in 2013.

In the U.S., the four major network operators (AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile USA and Verizon Wireless) have all indicated they will support BlackBerry 10 at launch. Pricing and availability of the handsets for each will likely vary. "We have to agree with carriers as well on what they want to announce when, so it's not absolutely to our own discretion," said Tear.

RIM is also expected to fully reveal all the details and features of BB10 at the January 30 event. The company has showed off a few things, such as BlackBerry Hub and BlackBerry Flow, which lets users interact with the user interface smoothly with a single hand. BB10 is based on RIM's PlayBook OS, which itself is based on the QNX platform.

RIM is courting developers heavily. Not only is it offering developers handsets and cash, but is now offering to port developers' PlayBook OS apps to the BB10 platform. Though there isn't much heavy lifting as far as the code is concerned, the effort will help RIM pack its app store with as many apps as possible ahead of launch.

RIM competitors Apple, Google, and Microsoft have a huge head start with their app stores, which feature more than 1.3 million apps combined. Microsoft was also able to beat RIM out the door with its own revamped smartphone platform, Windows Phone 8. Sales of WP8 devices kicked off this week.

RIM faces a Herculean task catching up to its rivals.