RIM needs to remain wary of wireless carriers

Occasionally in interviews, executives at RIM have mentioned how excited that wireless carriers are about BlackBerry10. However, this has me more worried than excited, because the carriers have not always had RIM’s best interest at heart.

For example, there are reports that the carriers are actually happy that BlackBerry10 has been delayed to Q1 2013. This is probably true. A Q1 release of BlackBerry10 gives the carriers something new to push in a quarter when they typically won’t have much else new on their shelves. It allows the carriers to hedge their bets on BlackBerry10 by promoting it during a more low key part of the year as opposed to the busy Christmas season. But just because it is good for the carriers does not imply that the delay is also good for RIM. Of course in this case, the delay may be good for RIM, by giving them the time needed for a solid launch, but it better not be done for the carrier’s sake.

In the past the carriers have been a problem for RIM. By depending upon the carriers to approve OS updates, RIM could not update devices in a timely manner (especially compared to Apple). Caving to requests from Verizon also led RIM to release the Storm and Tour without wi-fi. A few to many deals with the carriers also lead to RIM never offering a touch screen BlackBerry on more than one US carrier at a time until less then a year ago. (And RIM wonders why they have so little of the touchscreen market in the US).

For the rollout of BlackBerry10, RIM needs to remove the carriers from OS upgrades. RIM needs to keep the devices clear of the shovelware that plagues Android. RIM needs to launch across all carriers within the same month. While the wireless carriers are important retail channels, they are actively working against RIM whenever they try to be more then dumb pipes. Caving to the carriers would put RIM at a disadvantage to Apple and Microsoft.