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RIM plans to unveil BlackBerry 10 and two smartphones Jan. 30

Research in Motion will officially launch its new mobile operating system, BlackBerry 10, on Jan. 30, along with the first two RIM-designed smartphones to run it, the company announced today. The company has bet its future on the platform's success.

The RIM press release is vague on what "launch" actually means. The company has already demonstrated many of BlackBerry 10's capabilities, along with a prototype smartphone created to help software developers write apps for the new platform. In today's statement, RIM doesn't say when the first two BlackBerry 10 smartphones actually go on sale.

BACKGROUND: RIM CEO vows to wow with BlackBerry 10

The new OS is a complete break with the systems software that powered generations of BlackBerry email devices and phones. The new platform has been officially delayed at least twice, first planned for Q1 2012, then for late 2012. President and CEO Thorstein Heins, who took over the top spots in January 2012, decided to delay the launch by several months to give engineers and designers more time to refine the kernel, UI and applications.

RIM's share of the mobile device market has collapsed dramatically in the past 18 months, even in the enterprise market where the company's BlackBerry devices have long reigned supreme. Price cutting and new models based on the older OS have helped RIM stem the bleeding in a number of overseas markets in recent quarters.

BlackBerry 10 is based on the QNX Neutrino Realtime OS, which RIM acquired when it bought QNX in 2010. Originally, RIM used the RTOS as the basis for the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet. As Apple iOS and Google Android device sales soared, the company decided to abandon plans to update the aging BlackBerry OS and use Neutrino as the basis also for its next-generation smartphones.

At its annual BlackBerry World user conference in May, RIM unveiled demonstrations of the new OS and UI, and a prototype smartphone created for software developers. Users and developers were impressed with what they saw: a fluid user interface and a well thought-out navigation scheme (dubbed BlackBerry Flow), highly integrated apps, and shrewdly designed virtual keyboard. The company has been aggressively courting software developers, including gamers and others in the consumer space, for BlackBerry 10.

A feature called BlackBerry Balance lets users switch with one gesture between a secure "container" for corporate apps and data and a personal open workspace with consumer apps and games.

In a statement, CEO Heins was quoted as saying, "All of this will be integrated into a user experience - the BlackBerry Flow - that is unlike any smartphone on the market today."

RIM is promising that on release, BlackBerry 10 "will offer a large catalog of the leading applications from across the globe and across all categories, including Games, Productivity, Social, Lifestyle and Leisure, Multimedia and Published Content, as well as applications designed for business and enterprise use."

In an important milestone for its traditional government and enterprise customers, RIM announced earlier this month that BlackBerry 10 had been granted FIPS 140-2 security certification, allowing it to be used wherever FIPS is mandated. These markets will be able to buy and use BlackBerry 10 devices, and BlackBerry Enterprise Server 10, as soon as they're released. According to RIM, the first BlackBerry 10 phones are now being tested by over 50 carriers and "many more" are expected to start in the coming weeks.

John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World. Twitter: http://twitter.com/johnwcoxnww Email: [email protected]

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