RIM and AT&T are releasing new BlackBerry smartphones running BlackBerry 7 OS. RIM is trying to hold a market-share line against Android and iOS.
Research In Motion's BlackBerry Bold 9900 and Torch 9860
will debut on AT&T's 4G HSPA+ network Nov. 6. The carrier also plans on
making the BlackBerry Curve 9360 available Nov. 20.
The three devices, all of which run BlackBerry 7 OS,
represent part of RIM's attempt to hold the market-share line until it can
release its so-called "superphones" within the next few quarters. Those
superphones will run a QNX-based BBX operating system. Until they actually
arrive, however, RIM must depend on the freshly tweaked version of its
operating system, in conjunction with some redesigned hardware, in order to
fend off Google Android, Apple's iOS, and Windows Phone.
The BlackBerry Bold 9900 is a thinner version of the
longstanding Bold design, complete with 2.8-inch screen and QWERTY keyboard.
The Curve 9360 is likewise slim, with a screen slightly smaller than that of
the Bold. The Torch 9860 takes a slightly different design approach from many
of the other models in RIM's portfolio, swapping out a physical QWERTY keyboard
for a 3.7-inch touch display.
The big question now is when RIM will decide to actually
release its devices running BBX. The company announced earlier in October that
its long-awaited update to the PlayBook tablet, which would add features such
as integrated email, wouldn't arrive until February 2012.
"We expect to deliver the new BlackBerry PlayBook OS to
customers in February 2012," David Smith, RIM's senior vice president of BlackBerry
PlayBook, wrote in a post published on RIM's official
Oct. 25, "and we'll continue to keep you updated as we
progress to the launch."
He also described the decision to wait on the PlayBook OS
2.0 launch as a "difficult" one, driven by a need to be "confident we have
fully met the expectations of our developers, enterprise customers and
The fight to establish a larger role in tablets, however,
might prove secondary to RIM's need to reassert itself as a player in the
smartphone sphere, especially among its core business users in the enterprise.
Research firm Nielsen estimated RIM's share of the U.S. smartphone market at 18
percent through August, behind both Google Android (43 percent) and Apple iOS
(28 percent) but well ahead of Microsoft (8 percent). Microsoft is pouring
millions of dollars into making Windows Phone the smartphone space's third
major ecosystem, and both Android and iOS have made significant inroads within
the business community over the past several quarters.
Nicholas Kolakowski on Twitter