RIM must win over carriers before consumers
They won't be available for consumers until 2013, but Research in Motion has started handing out almost-completed versions of their BlackBerry 10 smartphones to carriers, hoping to excite the companies that run the world's cellular networks to offer them to their customers.
RIM executives are trumpeting their latest line of smartphones, armed with prototypes of the devices to hand out across the globe as part of a monthlong roadshow. That's a key part of the company's strategy to turn itself around in the face of dwindling sales.
RIM practically invented and then dominated the smartphone space. But in recent years the company has seen its market share erode to less than 10 per cent of the market due largely to customers switching to Apple Inc. iPhone or other devices powered by Google's Android platform.
Earlier this year, the company announced its first quarterly loss, of roughly $500 million. RIM shares are off more than 70 per cent in the past 12 months, currently trading hands at below $8 a share.
A few bugs related to software integration are still being ironed out, but the company is basically good to go with the first phase of the BlackBerry 10 line. The company will have at least two models at launch — one will be a touchscreen model similar to the iPhone, and the other will have the physical keyboard that RIM diehards have come to love.
"We're increasing responsiveness, and we're really making sure from top to bottom you get a great typing experience," CEO Thorsten Heins said recently.
Winning over major U.S. carrier like AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile in the U.S. — not to mention Rogers, Telus and Bell in Canada — is a central cog of the turnaround plan. Unless the carriers are convinced to sell them, winning over customers is largely moot.
"The carriers are looking for something that interests consumers, that will sell," independent technology analyst Carmi Levy said. "When they put it on the shelf, they want to make sure it flies off the shelf. They don't want it to sit at the back of the store gathering dust."
"It's safe to say that the very future of the company depends on RIM's ability to convince carriers to get on board," Levy said. "If they don't convince the carriers to get on board, essentially they have no other option."
"They have no where else to sell to," he said.
The first phase of the plan takes RIM's senior executive team to Mexico this week, before they bring their message to other North American carriers.