Research In Motion said Thursday it is delaying the launch of its upcoming BlackBerry 10 software, a move partners believe could prompt even more of its customer base to jump ship to Android and iOS devices.
RIM CEO Thorsten Heins made the announcement on a first-quarter earnings call with investors, during which he also reported the company’s net loss of $518 million for the three-month period. Heins said RIM has found the development of BlackBerry 10 to be more "challenging and time-consuming than expected."
"The schedule we were working toward, which would have the first BlackBerry 10 smartphones in the market this calendar year, is no longer realistic," he said.
[Related: RIM Discontinues 16-GB BlackBerry PlayBook]
BlackBerry 10, RIM’s next-generation mobile OS, was poised to breathe new and much-needed life into BlackBerry smartphones with the introduction of touch keyboards, a more robust app offering, and a new camera. Originally, it was slated to launch this fall.
For RIM partners, the delay of BlackBerry 10 means convincing customers to stay with BlackBerry -- an already daunting task as Android and iOS adoption continues to soar -- will become even more of a challenge.
"I do not know if my clients will wait until next year for BlackBerry 10," said Steven Kantorowitz, president of CelPro Associates, a New York-based RIM partner and solution provider, specializing in mobility. "A lot of them were sitting around for the fall. They waited for the [BlackBerry] PlayBook, and the iPad was the killer tablet. Who knows what kind of great new devices will be out between now and 2013 that will make BlackBerry 10 obsolete."
Robby Hill, owner of HillSouth, a Florence, S.C.-based RIM solution provider, also sees a shrinking BlackBerry customer base that is gravitating more and more toward the iPhone.
"As a partner, we are still with RIM, but no one is buying what they're selling. Our largest RIM customer has just decided to move all their employees to iPhones," Hill said. "Once that's done, they will surely disconnect their RIM servers."
Hill himself, as a BlackBerry user, is disappointed in the BlackBerry 10 delay, particularly because it pushes out the availability of 4G-ready BlackBerrys.
"I would consider myself their [RIM’s] biggest fan, personally, but waiting years for a new phone is just not in my plans. Holding out until the end of this calendar year seemed like an eternity already," he said. "Personally, if iPhone had a 4G model, I probably would have already left them. RIM can't ignore the 4G market by delaying the release of hardware into 2013. Another year of only selling 3G phones will have end users and carriers reconsidering any investments in RIM products as a company that offers old technologies."
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