Research In Motion has insisted that its carrier partners around the world are excited about the BlackBerry 10 platform and smartphones that it will show off later this month. In the United States, Verizon Wireless, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint have now all confirmed that they’ll back the platform.
AT&T CEO Lowell McAdam, speaking to Reuters at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show Jan. 9, said that he’s “hopeful” it will be a good device, while AT&T Senior Vice President Jeff Bradley said it was only “logical” that AT&T’s customers “will have the best BlackBerry devices to choose from.”
John Legere, T-Mobile’s charismatic new CEO—who delighted CES attendees during his keynote address, cracking jokes, calling AT&T’s network in New York City “crap” and saying that porn will be the undoing of shared-data plans—offered the most enthusiastic response. He told Reuters that his team is “extremely optimistic” that BlackBerry 10 will be successful and that T-Mobile’s business customers will be “extremely interested in it.”
Sprint—which took a wait-and-see approach to Microsoft’s Windows Phone platform, even after all of its major competitors had signed on—was notably missing from the Reuters report. However, a Sprint spokesperson confirmed to eWEEK that it does indeed plan to offer BlackBerry 10 its customers “later this year.”
Sprint spokesperson Mark Elliott added, “We will share more details soon.”
BlackBerry smartphones, once leaders of the smartphone market, have been unable to compete against Apple iPhones and smartphones running Google’s Android operating system. Enterprises, and even those in regulated industries—which had long been RIM’s bread and butter—have opened their doors to devices beyond the BlackBerry. While IT departments argue in favor of the BlackBerry’s security features, workers want to use slicker, cooler devices, and that’s what RIM will need to soon deliver.
After twice delaying BlackBerry 10’s release, RIM plans to introduce the platform and smartphones at a New York City event Jan. 30.
During an earnings call Dec. 20, RIM CEO Thorsten Heins said that throughout the organization, “excitement for BlackBerry 10 is high.”
The excitement, he added, is such that employees seem to be “wearing a badge of honor right now. … It’s a great time to be with BlackBerry.”
Heins and his team have been vocal about the changes they’ve been working on, which include a new user interface and workflow style, improvements to the touch keyboard as well as to the QWERTY keyboard, better integration with applications, software that learns about the user with time, a great consumer experience, as well as a business one, and a smarter separation of personal and business data.
At CES, the Los Angeles Times received a private, hands-on demo of a BlackBerry 10 smartphone—albeit one wrapped in a rubber bumper to maintain a bit of suspense.
“It was black all over, appeared to be very thin, had no home button and featured front-and rear-facing cameras,” wrote the Times’ Andrea Chang. “The phone takes HD video, has a screen resolution better than the iPhone 5, features a faster browser and … was missing that signature BlackBerry physical keyboard.”
RIM has promised to release at least two models, one with a QWERTY keyboard and one without.
Chang wrote that the challenge RIM faces isn’t lost on Richard Piasentin, RIM’s managing director for the U.S. market.
“We’re very aware of our market, very aware of our position,” he told Chang. “We have aggressive goals, but they’re reasonable goals. And before you can be No. 1 you’ve got to be No. 2, before you can be No. 2, you’ve got to be No. 3. We’re building our plans for the long, slow climb back to the top.”