It’s only been one full day since former COO Thorsten Heins has taken the top spot at RIM, and we may already be privy to the company’s game plan for the next 15 months. According to reports from BGR‘s always-willing sources, RIM is hard at work on a series of new product launches that will culminate with the launch of their first BlackBerry 10 device in the latter half of this year.
For a company that gets nearly consistent praise for their physical QWERTY keyboards, they’re taking a risk by making the all-touch BlackBerry London the first BlackBerry 10 device to be pushed out the door. The London is reportedly on track for a September launch despite the kerfuffle surrounding their 4G chipsets, but a release so late into 2012 will pit RIM against a crop of strong competitors.
The London’s September launch should be followed by a hybrid touch/keyboard device (along the lines of the Bold 9900) roughly a month later. There have also been internal rumblings about a BlackBerry 10-powered QWERTY slider handset (a new Torch?), which is rumored to be released in Q1 2013.
Of course, RIM plans to ship a few new BlackBerry 7 devices between now and when their platform makes its long-awaited debut. Enter the EDGE-only BlackBerry Curve 9230 and the HSPA-friendly Curve 9320, neither of which will likely turn many heads when they see the light of day.
Along with RIM’s spate of new smartphones, a revamped BlackBerry PlayBook is also said to be in the works. The jury is still out on design and dimensions, but the new PlayBook is expected to sport a 1.5GHz processor, an NFC chip, and support for 42Mbps HSPA+. This itself isn’t much of a surprise — former co-CEO Jim Balsillie confirmed the existence of a refreshed PlayBook to the Wall Street Journal yesterday — but it’ll be interesting to see if this one fares any better than the original.
Some of the info matches up to previous leaks, and so far the new RIM seems centered around two things it can’t afford to bungle: the revival of the PlayBook and (more importantly) the BlackBerry 10 launch. Let’s take the Blackberry 7-powered Curves out of the equation for right now, as no one expects those to turn things around for RIM.
Credit where credit is due, taking a more restrained approach to product launches strikes me a smarter move than what they’ve done in the past. RIM’s devices releases have are often lumped together — consider this triple whammy of AT&T BlackBerrys from August, and this pair of new handsets from November. Staggering these new releases gives these devices room to breathe and hopefully hit their stride before being joined by other models.
Still, a thoughtful release timeline won’t mean anything if the products themselves aren’t up to snuff. One real fear I have is that BlackBerry 10 won’t be enough of a step forward, even after they’ve spent all this time on it. The new CEO doesn’t do much to assuage my concerns — Heins noted yesterday that he didn’t see much need for a “drastic change” for the company, though others may see it differently (quick aside: RIM’s stock has dipped yet again).