Research In Motion has delayed the release of its 3G BlackBerry for AT&T from June to August, according to reports. The postponement may be due to testing of the new device.
A June launch might have placed the device, the BlackBerry 9000, in direct competition for marketplace attention with Apple’s 3G iPhone, which is expected to surface that month. Although rumors are swirling that RIM postponed the launch to avoid being overshadowed by the iPhone, both expected launch dates are only based on speculation, and the two phones are targeted toward different user groups.
RIM spokesperson Ian Twinn declined to confirm reports of a delay, saying, “We’ve never made any announcement regarding this device or any delays. It’s not our policy to comment on agreements and speculation.”
Talk of a delay caused RIM stock to tumble on both the Toronto and Nasdaq stock exchanges Friday; however,RIM shares were slightly higher Monday.
The company’s shares were up US$2.53, at $122.57, Monday afternoon on the Nasdaq. The stock had a year-on-year range of $43.78, from May 1, and $137.01, which it reached Nov. 7.
A postponement of the BlackBerry for AT&T could impact RIM’s revenues in the second fiscal quarter, which ends Aug. 30.
Reports of the delay are greatly exaggerated since RIM never announced its official release date, said Needham & Co. analyst Charlie Wolf.
“It’s pure speculation,” Wolf told the E-Commerce Times. “I read the rumor that AT&T told them to delay it. The notion that one carrier can get them to postpone release — and not the No. 1 carrier in this country, at that — sounds far-fetched.”
Apple’s expected June launch of its 3G iPhone is also not set in stone, Wolf asserted. “They didn’t say it was coming in June. Apple may not introduce the iPhone until August.”
Plenty of Room in Marketplace
There’s plenty of room in the smartphone market for all of the major players to benefit from 3G technology in the long term, Wolf added.
“Two months doesn’t matter,” he said. “The common assumption, wrongly, is that these companies are playing zero-sum games, when the reality is that the smartphone market is growing dramatically. Overall, the market is growing so fast, it doesn’t matter.”
RIM and Apple traditionally have targeted different markets anyway. “Even though the iPhone is now enterprise-friendly, the BlackBerry and iPhone are still targeting very distinct users,” IDC analyst Chris Hazelton told the E-Commerce Times.
“Whether this is a delay of a couple of days, a couple of weeks or a couple of months, I just don’t see a huge impact, for that reason. The BlackBerry is message-centric, and the iPhone is multimedia-centric. They’re targeting different populations,” he said.
The AT&T BlackBerry device isn’t RIM’s first 3G smartphone. The Canadian company already launched 3G BlackBerry devices for the Verizon and Sprint Nextel platforms.
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