updated 08:20 pm EDT, Tue July 12, 2011
RIM talks Bold 9900 launch and PlayBook retail
RIM co-CEO Mike Lazaridis at the company's annual shareholders' meeting hinted that the BlackBerry Bold 9900 was very close to a launch. He expected a launch "over the next month." The launch plans were even more aggressive than usual with 491 certification programs and 191 carriers.
This would be the "largest global launch in [RIM's] history," Lazaridis said.
The figures line up both with the 9900's FCC approval, which has it cleared for late August, as well as Canadian scheduling for near the same time. American providers are more likely to get the Bold in September.
RIM stressed that the 9900 was just one of seven devices that would use BlackBerry 7. Many of these are already known and include the Touch 9860, the Torch 9850, and new Curves.
In a rare admission, RIM tackled a poor retail launch for the BlackBerry PlayBook. After a shareholder confronted management with photo evidence of the iPad, Acer Iconia Tab, HTC Flyer, and other tablets all getting more prominent placement at Best Buy than the PlayBook, Lazaridis acknowledged that RIM was unfamiliar with pure retail. It was used to selling through carriers, and the PlayBook was its first device it had to ship directly to stores.
"We will get better," he said.
Very little of the challenges to RIM's leadership was in evidence after the company successfully had investors drop a challenge just before the event. All nine board members, including CEOs Balsillie and Lazaridis, were elected without any significant dissent. All shareholders during the Q&A session were supportive and usually couched any concerns with comments that they used BlackBerrys, with one dismissing Android and iPhone as "games" in spite of their increasing push into enterprise.
When asked about the open critical letter pointing out structural problems within the company, Lazaridis sidestepped issues of intimidation from management and said it wasn't a "constructive" way to challenge the company. He also insisted that the "overwhelming, super-high majority" of staff wouldn't approve of going that route without quantifying his point of view.