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RIM's future hinges on consumer embrace of BlackBerry 10

Business users embrace important but RIM's future hinges on consumer buy-in of BlackBerry 10, analysts say

By , Network World
January 29, 2013 11:02 AM ET

Network World - The key to Research in Motion's success in the business markets lies not with IT groups or even business users, but with consumers, according to analysts looking ahead to Wednesday's announcement of RIM's new BlackBerry 10 smartphones.

The phones, their new OS with its radically redesigned gesture user interface, and new back-end services are RIM's high-stakes bet to reclaim its place as a premier mobile device company. But RIM is also creating services and back-end infrastructures to amplify and extend what a device can do.

Opinion is divided on whether consumers will forgo buying iPhones and Android handsets and embrace the re-invented BlackBerry experience.

[ WATCH IT LIVE: RIM BlackBerry 10 blockbuster: Live stream Wednesday 10 a.m. EST/7 a.m. PST

MORE: RIM's demo of new BlackBerry impresses programmers, users ]

BlackBerry 10
Credit: Martyn Williams, IDG News Service
The BlackBerry 10 operating system is shown running on a development handset.

"Don't forget that in many parts of the world [outside the U.S.], BlackBerry actually is the choice of consumers," says Jack Gold, principle of J. Gold Associates, an independent research and strategy consultancy. "So it's not impossible for them to gain lots of consumer traction."

"We don't expect it to win significant numbers of converts from other platforms," writes Jan Dawson, chief telecoms analyst with Ovum, a U.K.-based analysis and consulting company. "There is little in the new platform that suggests it will have the compelling apps, content stores, or the broader ecosystem that consumers have come to expect in a competitive smartphone platform."

In fact, prior to the release of the iPhone in mid-2007, RIM was going from strength to strength as it aggressively and successively sought buyers among the ranks of consumers, new territory for a company that relied on corporate buying plans for its popular email devices and mobile phones. RIM at its peak was selling 12 million-15 million devices per quarter.

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RIM's consumer challenge

A lot has changed in the smartphone market with the advent of iPhone and the spread of rivals based on Google Android. That growth caught traditional mobile phone makers, such as RIM, Nokia and Motorola by surprise. Google bought Motorola; Nokia abandoned its own operating system in favor of Windows Phone, and after five brutal quarters is only now reporting some modestly encouraging gains. RIM, over a year later, is starting an equally radical reformation.

"Consumers come in [to a retail store] knowing a lot about Android and iOS devices: their friends have them, or they've owned one themselves in the past," says Ken Dulaney, vice president of mobile computing at Gartner, technology research and consulting company. "They'll get a five minute demo of the new BlackBerry 10. And that little demo has to impress them."

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