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Report: RIM plans six BlackBerry 10 handsets for 2013

Carrier-free spread of smartphones for all sectors

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CES 2013 RIM might not have a stand at CES and it isn't holding any press conferences, but its executives are busy on the floor talking up the handsets coming out at the January 30 launch.

CMO Frank Boulben told FierceWireless that the launch would see two handsets running the BlackBerry 10 operating system, one full touchscreen device and a unit for BlackBerry fans who just can't live without that QWERTY keyboard.

By the end of the year the company plans to have six smartphones covering high, middle and low-end price sectors. Boulben said RIM won't be doing any exclusive deals with carriers, which will allow it to set its own terms and sell the devices to all comers.

"We intend over time as we transition the portfolio to have a full range of devices," he said.

That approach could serve it well. RIM might have barely 5 per cent of the US market, but it's strong in specific sectors. The product line will cover low-end youth buyers who like the Blackberry Messenger service, corporate and government customers at the midrange, and will include a few high-end units for the BYOD crowd. 

Boulben promised 70,000 applications at launch, which must be a blow to CEO Thoresten Heins, who said anything less than 100,000 would mean failure. Boulben said that the company would have 90 per cent of the top 600 most popular applications ready to go by time to market – which sounds good, but that last 10 per cent could be crucial.

Apple has 775,000 choices in its App Store and Android is not far behind, with Microsoft reporting 120,000 Windows Phone applications on sale, although that rate of growth is slowing. What analysts are looking for is proof that RIM can get enough application support to bring back users, and thus entice more developers back into the fold.

If there is to be a third force in mobile computing then it's going to be a contest between Microsoft and RIM. Redmond's hopes that it could absorb Symbian users have foundered, but Windows Phone 8, with its kernel links with Windows 8, has attractions for some. But Boulben was confident that RIM could regain past glories, and he suggested that carriers agreed.

"They very much believe that we can be the third platform," Boulben said. ®

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