By Barry Levine / Top Tech News. Updated December 13, 2012.
Research In Motion is seeing some rays of hope for its coming BlackBerry 10 platform. The slivers of sunshine include an announcement Thursday by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, which now says it will test BB10 in a pilot program -- weeks after the agency said it would drop its support of BlackBerry devices in favor of Apple's iPhone.
The test will be jointly conducted with RIM early next year. BB10 is scheduled to launch at the end of January. RIM has said that the BB10 platform and devices will allow organizations to employ new services, improve delivery of services, and increase productivity.
ICE announced in October that it would drop BlackBerry phones, saying that RIM's technology "can no longer meet the mobile technology needs of the agency" and added that Apple's was a "more capable and dynamic technology."
FIPS 140-2 Certification
ICE's interest in investigating BB10 contrasts with the announcement last month by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board that it would discontinue BlackBerry phones in favor of the iPhone 5.
Earlier this month, RIM announced that BB10 had received FIPS (Federal Information Processing Standard Publication) 140-2 certification from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), a security credential confirming a certified encryption technique.
This marks the first time a RIM product has been so certified prior to its release, and it means that U.S. government agencies can start to use the devices as soon as they are on the market.
Another trickle of sunshine for RIM: Eric Jackson, a highly visible analyst with Ironfire Capital, posted Wednesday that, because "RIM isn't Palm," it could be a "very undervalued stock." He points out that RIM, even with its troubles, still has 80 million subscribers globally, with about 8 million in the U.S.
Jackson cited surveys that show 70 percent of existing RIM subscribers plan to upgrade, calling the resulting number "massive." Even if that's too optimistic, he said, 30 to 40 million BB10 subscribers is doable, and, in addition, RIM has relationships with global carriers that Palm did not.
Another bit of good news is more properly called a leak of sunshine. A series of sharp photos of what purports to be leaked images of a RIM BB10 L-Series smartphone has been published on a Vietnamese Web site. It shows a slick, touchscreen slab device with removable back cover, and, although not much detail has been revealed, the photos have been getting oohs and aahs throughout the Web.
Finally, RIM has been actively recruiting developers and potential enterprise users, with the New York session of its BlackBerry 10 Jam for developers being the latest to garner positive feedback. RIM is pushing a variety of reasons why enterprises, its core base of users, will find BB10 appealing, including the ability for companies to manage BB10 devices more effectively.
These snippets of promising news build on other events of the last few weeks. Last week, for instance, RIM introduced an incentive initiative, BB10 Ready Program, that was designed to encourage businesses to switch to new BlackBerry devices. The program includes a free BB10 smartphone for customers currently with Tech Support at the Advantage level or higher, a weekly webcast of information, and a free trade-up to Enterprise Service 10 for holders of existing Enterprise Service licenses.