RIM in Limbo: Next-Gen BlackBerry Phones Delayed to Late 2012

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With BlackBerry 10 smartphones delayed until late 2012, the next year is going to be pretty awkward for Research in Motion.

For nearly another year, the company will have to peddle phones based on BlackBerry 7, an operating system that’s been scaring customers away in droves. RIM can release new hardware if it wants, but ultimately customers are getting an aging operating system with a sub-par web browser and a serious deficiency of great apps.

(MORE: Poor RIM Renames BBX ‘BlackBerry 10’ Due to Trademark Woes)

The sad thing is that RIM thinks it can juice BlackBerry 7 phone sales through “aggressive marketing and promotional programs,” the Verge reports. But what can RIM tell people about BlackBerry, the U.S. market’s oldest living smartphone brand, that they don’t already know? There’s not much to advertise when your greatest strength is a hardware keyboard.

As for “promotional programs,” sure, cheap gadgets sell. RIM’s experiencing this right now by taking a $485 million loss to sell unpopular BlackBerry PlayBook tablets at deep discounts. But even if RIM can turn a profit on, say, two-for-one smartphone deals through wireless carriers, there’s no guarantee that Android or Windows Phone devices won’t be promoted in the same way and continue to steal market share.

(MORE: BlackBerry Maker RIM’s Net Income Falls in Third Quarter)

BlackBerry 10 is RIM’s distant glimmer of hope, a modern operating system with rich native apps and a proper smartphone web browser. Yet the company is hemming and hawing with excuses for why BlackBerry 10 smartphones haven’t shipped. Apparently RIM is waiting for a dual-core chip that supports 4G LTE networks without draining battery life. That’d be an admirable stand if it wasn’t so spineless. Is there not a single wireless carrier who would sell BlackBerry 10 smartphones today if they only supported 3G or 4G HSPA+ networks?

Of course, the longer RIM delays, the farther behind it falls. With Siri, Apple has raised the stakes for voice control, and now Google is reportedly readying its answer. Meanwhile, the app catalogs of iOS 5, Android and Windows Phone are growing, making catch up even harder for BlackBerry 10.

For now, though, RIM’s biggest problem is the holding pattern it’s in. Hopefully 2012 will culminate in a BlackBerry product worth talking about. Until then, it’s going to be a long year.

(MORE: The Tragic Decline of BlackBerry)