The long, much-delayed wait is over. Today RIM took the formal wraps off its new BB10 platform and the first two smartphones running the OS: the all-touch Z10 and the Q10 that will carry the much-loved RIM physical keyboard. RIM has learned at least one lesson from Apple: their launch event included details on launch dates, carrier availability, and pricing. My colleague Thomas Husson has offered a viewpoint on BB10 for product and marketing specialists here.
The good news: RIM's hardware and software rise to the level of their competition, and in some cases — such as the keyboard's prediction and multilingual support — far surpass it; the BB10 catalog of applications, while smaller by an order of magnitude than the selection available for Apple and Android devices, is large and covers a broad range of business and consumer experiences; the platform is designed for a BYOD world, providing support for work and personal identities with an easy-to-access approach (provided the enterprise chooses BES); and RIM has struck deals with a wide range of content providers to offer customers a selection of music, video, and news content.
Does it matter? Can RIM somehow remain relevant in their bare-knuckles market? At best, RIM's new products will allow it to stop the bleeding and hold its market share, and maybe even claw back a couple of points of market share. Our consumer data shows that, while more than half of US BlackBerry owners plan to get a new phone in the next year, fewer than two in five of them say it will be another BlackBerry. RIM's hope is that these new devices will bring those future defectors — plus, some they've already lost — back to the fold. As evinced by the strong support they are offering, global mobile operators also hold this hope — whether it's RIM, Microsoft, or even an upstart platform like Tizen or Sailfish, carriers seek a third strong ecosystem alternative to the Apple and Google behemoths. Their true commitment to RIM will come in the form of opening their wallets and marketing these new devices.
What should CIOs do? Those who have already bailed on RIM and ditched their BES need not revisit that decision unless their employees beat down their door — you know, like they did for the iPhone. But those with BES still in place should take RIM up on their "fly us" offer, upgrade it to handle BB10, and take advantage of its multiplatform MDM support. Then see if BlackBerry Balance pays its promised dividend for both the company and employees — but, absent compelling regulatory restrictions, stick with BYOD and let the employees vote for BB10 with their own wallets.