RIM sets Jan. 30 launch for BlackBerry 10, prompts worries about when phones will appear

The OS will be joined by two smartphones

Research In Motion (RIM) today set Jan. 30 for the launch of BlackBerry 10, when it will also unveil its first two smartphones on the OS.

The announcement was greeted with some surprise by longtime BlackBerry fans who warned that the announcement must be followed quickly by in-store sales.

The new OS was originally due out this year, and its delay has factored in dwindling sales and market share for RIM. Some longtime RIM customers, including U.S. government agencies, have decided not to continue with BlackBerry, favoring iPhones instead for thousands of workers. RIM last week announced that Blackberry 10 meets the Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS).

IDC and Gartner both recently put the RIM share of the global smartphone market at less than 5%.

Not only does RIM need to worry about market share, it must worry about its product rollout timetables and overall credibility, some RIM supporters said.

"A lot of people will not be happy if it turns out that there are more than two weeks between the launch party and actually getting [smartphones] in our hands," read one blog forum comment by Ryan Robinson.

"They need to get the devices out ASAP," said Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates. "There are still a lot of BlackBerry faithful. Unless the phones are somehow defective or the OS doesn't work well, I expect to see a pretty good pent-up demand for the new devices."

Gold said his company recently surveyed business customers and found that BlackBerry remains the No. 2 strategic choice behind iPhone and ahead of other OSes.

Missing the upcoming holiday sales season won't matter as much to business customers as it will for consumers.

Whether the new BlackBerry 10 smartphones -- both a touchscreen and a physical keyboard model -- get on the shelves of U.S. wireless carriers quickly could be important for RIM. With Windows Phone 8 devices from Nokia and others appearing, the shelf space for BlackBerry as the No. 3 smartphone on sale behind iPhones and Android devices could be up for grabs.

Carriers only have so much room and will want to show off top sellers, several analysts noted.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at  @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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