RIM Reportedly Down To One Next-Gen Handset, Explores Licensing Options

Research In Motion has reportedly trimmed its list of future BlackBerry 10 devices down to just a single handset, The upcoming device, BlackBerry London. Up until now, RIM was working on the BlackBerry Colt, which was supposed to be the first BlackBerry OS 10 device.

Betting everything on just one handset is a risky move--the company is putting all its eggs in one basket--but it might be the correct one. In this case, software is far more important than hardware. RIM doesn't need to deliver best-in-class specs half so much as it needs an operating system and product strategy that get people excited about BlackBerry phones again. RIM could give the upcoming London a major performance boost compared to the current Bold 9900/9930 by moving to a higher quality AMOLED screen and switching to a dual-core 1.2GHz chip.

BlackBerry London will fail or succeed based on the strength of its operating system and RIM's ability to attract app developers. When Palm launched the Pre (and webOS) at CES several years ago, the device was extremely well received but ultimately failed to gain market traction. RIM has the cash reserves Palm lacked, but has yet to demonstrate it can field an OS people will want to use, much less an app framework that'll attract developers.

Original photo leaked by TheVerge

Unfortunately, the rumors coming out of RIM point to a manufacturer that's mired in development hell. Unnamed sources have indicated that the real reason for BlackBerry OS 10's delay wasn't the availability of low-power 4G radios, as the company claimed, but fundamental problems with the next-generation operating system. Speaking to BGR, the source claimed that "“Email and PIM [is better] on an 8700 than it is on BlackBerry 10," and that "RIM is simply pushing this out as long as they can for one reason, they don’t have a working product yet."

RIM is currently in negotiation to license BlackBerry software to Samsung and HTC in an apparent co-branding effort that would allow it to earn revenue as a network company while attempting to revive its flagging handset business. The company is expected to fire co-CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie and replace them with board member Barbara Stymiest.

The best thing RIM could do for itself at this point is to toss Lazaridis and Balsillie, come clean regarding its development problems, and give an unflinching account of its own status. The BlackBerry manufacturer is still highly profitable, with deep pockets, a trusted brand, and substantial expertise in mobile products. Being honest about its current situation is much more likely to engender trust than pretending everything is great while launch dates slip and products fall by the wayside.