BlackBerry 10 Launch Likely for March, Not January: Jefferies

RIM promised a first-quarter 2013 launch for BlackBerry 10, and comments by CEO Heins pointed to January. Analysts, however, say March is now more likely.

Research In Motion disappointed investors in June, when it announced a second delay to its this-will-change-everything BlackBerry 10 platform, pushing the launch until "early 2013." In August, RIM CEO Thorsten Heins got more specific during an interview with The Telegraph, reportedly promising smartphones in January. However, analysts now say that a March launch is more likely.

"Management has been silent as to the timing of the launch within [calendar year quarter one] but we believe plans for a Jan. launch have now been pushed back until March, which means BB10 will miss RIM's [February quarter]," Jefferies analyst Peter Misek wrote in an Oct. 9 research note.

A RIM spokesperson told eWEEK, "I can confirm that we're on target to deliver BlackBerry 10 in Q1 of 2013."

Heins accepted the CEO role in January 2012, and initiated a massive makeover for the company, which has been losing subscribers to the Apple iPhone and Android-running smartphones. The company announced it would let go of 5,000 workers, was trimming redundancies where possible—Heins replaced two CEOs and was one of two chief operating officers—and has tightened RIM's focus to only its core strengths. Where RIM has a need beyond that core, Heins has said, it will turn to partners who specialize in that area—games and maps, for example.

Heins and his team expect BB10 not only to keep current BlackBerry users in the fold, but to draw new users away from other platforms. Until it launches, however, RIM can only work on convincing users of older devices to upgrade to BlackBerry 7 handsets—which are superior to older models but won't be able to receive the BB10 upgrade.

Selling users on BlackBerry 7 can be a challenging endeavor in North America and other established markets, but RIM is still having luck growing its user base in developing markets such as Indonesia and South Africa. During its quarter that ended Sept. 1, RIM managed to add 2 millions subscribers, bumping its total to 80 million.

Given RIM's struggles, there has been talk of whether it will sell off parts of its business or be purchased outright. Bloomberg has reported that IBM has expressed interest in RIM's enterprise services division, and analysts have suggested that Samsung could benefit from purchasing intellectual property from RIM if not the company outright.

But Heins says that, too, will likely have to wait for BB10.

"There's a small team ... working [with] financial advisors, looking at what makes sense, what doesn't make sense, what would be our options," Heins told eWEEK during an Aug. 24 interview. "It's prudent to look at all the options for the future. It's not depending on each other, but certainly if BlackBerry 10 were out there, being proven by then ... it would make things easier."

Jefferies' Misek, pointing to likely interest from Samsung and "other Asian original equipment manufacturers," also expects that RIM won't sell or make any licensing deals until after the launch of BB10.

"We still believe a third ecosystem will emerge," Misek added, "but the probability of BB10 filling the role [instead of Microsoft's Windows Phone] is wholly dependent on whether RIM can convince Samsung, Huawei and ZTE to license."

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