RIM 2012 roadmap: fewer phones, new PlayBook

Now that the Balsillie/Lazaridis reign of failure has ended at Research In Motion, consumers and investors alike are beginning to turn their attention towards what the ‘new’ RIM will look like under the care of its new chief executive officer, Thorsten Heins. The first details are now starting to emerge of RIM’s roadmap for the next year or so, according to information sourced by BGR.

In a nutshell, don’t expect the company to rock the boat in any way over the next few months. In addition to routine updates of existing hardware, the company plans to roll out two new BlackBerry 7 devices – the Curve 9230 (an EDGE-only) device, and the Curve 9320 (packing HSPA connectivity).

An updated PlayBook – perhaps even an all-new model – will be launched in May or June, with a 1.5GHz processor, NFC support and HSPA+ cellular connectivity, capable of up to 42Mbps speeds. It’s not known if it will still be a 7” tablet, or if this will be the debut of a larger PlayBook model.

It’s towards the end of the year that things get interesting – well, relatively speaking anyway – with the launch of the first devices running RIM’s next-generation operating system, BlackBerry 10 (formerly BBX). The first handset, codename ‘London’, is expected to be formally announced in September.


The Porsche Design P'9981 (left) and leaked 'London' (right, via The Verge)
offer clues as to what the next generation BlackBerry handsets will look like.

It now appears that a second BB10 smartphone will also launch this year, and that this will form part of the BlackBerry Bold family; this device will feature both a touchscreen display and QWERTY keyboard, most likely in the familiar BlackBerry layout of a landscape screen with a fixed keyboard below it. This device is expected in December 2012.

Finally, a new handset with a slide-out QWERTY keyboard will reportedly emerge in Q1 2013; there are no details on whether this will be a landscape slider, or if the keyboard will slide out vertically, like the Torch 9800.

What is clear is that this is a drastically reduced range of devices compared with the plethora of different handsets and variants that BlackBerry currently offers, and which even RIM itself must surely struggle to keep track of.

The timing of this leak is interesting though. CBC noted that RIM’s shares were down more than 9% yesterday, their first day of trading since the appointment of Heins as the company’s new CEO - evidently, the markets did not react particularly positively to the news. Leaking details of RIM’s leaner, consolidated product range may be an attempt to signal to investors that the true extent of changes at the company is more than just cosmetic.

It's clear that RIM has a long way to go to restore the faith of both its shareholders and its customers - 2012 will surely be the year that makes or breaks the company once and for all.

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