Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

BlackBerry delays leave RIM out of upgrade cycle

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TORONTO -- While Research In Motion battles to convince investors it's making the right moves, the company also faces perhaps a more difficult struggle to sell its millions of users on the idea of waiting until next year for new devices.

With seductive new smartphones running Google's Android operating system coming out virtually every week and rumours of an updated iPhone this fall, even RIM's most faithful users will have their loyalty tested.

"RIM is really between a rock and a hard place," said technology analyst Carmi Levy on Friday.

"It's trying to convince consumers that it remains relevant, but it doesn't have anything relevant to offer them."

That's the challenge RIM will face after the surprise delay of its new BlackBerry operating system. The revelation late Thursday threw a wrench into what chief executive Thorsten Heins had been telling the public was a well-oiled machine working its way towards a product launch later this year.

With the announcement came a whole new wave of challenges for the Waterloo, Ont.-based technology firm, including how it's going to persuade consumers into buying the aging slate of BlackBerry devices currently taking up space in warehouses.

"When you don't come to market with a product for so long, consumers are eventually going to need to upgrade and will be looking for something else," said Krista Napier, a senior mobility analyst at IDC Canada.

Napier said a study by IDC Canada found Canadian smartphone users tend to buy a new phone every 18 to 20 months. The latest delay from RIM will give competitors seven to nine months of time to chip away at the BlackBerry's customer base while RIM's engineers toil in the workshop.

Rumours have circulated for months a potential buyer could swoop in and pick up the company.

Heins has repeatedly said selling the company is farthest from his mind and so far the company's board has stood by him.

However, investors are likely to grow more impatient with the drawn-out and uncertain future for the company.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 1, 2012 B11

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