RIM to ramp up BB10 device production in race for Q1 2013 launch

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Research In Motion has insisted the company’s upcoming BlackBerry 10 (BB10) operating system will be ready in time to launch in early 2013, revealing plans to scale production of two new devices.

“BlackBerry 10 is for real, the hardware is there and the software is there,” said RIM chief executive Thorsten Heins, in a report by the Financial Times late on Tuesday, in which he confirmed the embattled smartphone maker plans to license its new platform to other companies.

RIM said it is putting the finishing touches to two BB10 handsets, a full touchscreen model, and one that includes a hardware QWERTY keyboard. It plans to ramp up production over the coming months in time for a global launch in the first quarter of 2013. According to the FT, both devices will come in LTE-compatible variants.

Meanwhile, an operator source told the Wall Street Journal that BB10 represents a “marked improvement” over RIM’s current OS and accompanying crop of devices, which have failed to rein in smartphone OS leaders Apple and Google. The source said the new platform has the potential to make RIM more competitive with Android, and expressed confidence in the company’s chances of getting BB10 ready in time for a Q1 launch.

Prototype BB10 devices have been available since May, when Heins took the wraps off RIM’s new OS and launched a prototype smartphone, the BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha.

Optimism about the new software and its potential to revive the company’s ailing fortunes was short-lived, however, because a month later, alongside another dismal set of quarterly financials, RIM postponed its BB10 launch from late 2012 to early 2013, meaning it would miss out on the lucrative holiday season.

In the meantime, sales of BlackBerry phones continue to fall.

According to Gartner’s latest numbers, RIM sold 7.99 million handsets during the second quarter, down from 12.65 million a year ago, giving it a 5.2% share of the global smartphone OS market, and just 1.9% of the overall mobile device market.

In March this year, Heins – who had not been CEO for more than three months – announced the company was conducting a strategic review aimed at going back to its enterprise-focused roots.

The decision sparked rumours that RIM might be broken up and sold, but so far the company has played down such speculation.