RIM Plans To Start BlackBerry 10 Rollout In January

“My expectation is that in some countries we will be launching in January,” Frank Boulben, RIM’s new chief marketing officer, said in an interview today before the company’s annual shareholder meeting near its headquarters in Waterloo, Ontario. “Will it be three continents or five, five countries or 10? I don’t know the specifics yet, but it will be multiple countries on multiple continents.”

RIM, struggling to compete with Apple’s iPhone and smartphones that run on Google’s Android platform, is racing to get the revamped BlackBerry 10 into consumers’ hands. RIM’s share of the global smartphone industry fell by more than half to 6.4 percent in the first quarter, according to IDC. Android jumped to 59 percent, while Apple accounted for 23 percent.

Boulben, who was hired for RIM’s top marketing job in May, said that releasing the phone in January and not in the run-up to the holiday shopping season means RIM won’t have to compete with a flood of new handsets. It also can garner more publicity in the new year, he said. Apple and other rivals are expected to release new models later this year.

No Assurances

Still, Boulben said he couldn’t guarantee the January timing for the first phone because wireless carriers’ testing of the device could run late.

“The testing process of our carrier partners can take up to eight, 10, 12 weeks, so we are also dependent on them,” he said.

RIM had initially planned to introduce the first BB10 device in the spring of last year, before delaying it twice. The company said last month that the first BB10 phone wouldn’t be released until first quarter of 2013, an announcement that sent the shares tumbling. At the time, RIM wasn’t more specific about the timing.

RIM fell 2 percent to $7.52 at 10:55 a.m. in New York. The stock has dropped about 95 percent from its mid-2008 high.

RIM last month reported a first-quarter loss excluding restructuring expenses that was more than five times bigger than what analysts had predicted. Sales tumbled 43 percent to $2.8 billion, and the company said it would cut 5,000 jobs.

“I want to assure you I am not satisfied with the performance of the company over the past year,” Chief Executive Officer Thorsten Heins told shareholders at today’s annual meeting. “We are working around the clock to successfully complete the transition path that we are on.”

Shareholders also voted to approve RIM’s directors and a nonbinding say-on-pay measure that the board had supported.

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