RIM will let customers pick services from a menu

The company will shift away from its all-in-one model when it introduces BlackBerry 10

Research In Motion will let its customers pick and choose individual BlackBerry services such as security and mobile device management after it introduces the long-awaited BlackBerry 10 platform next month.

Offering different tiers of service and letting users choose from a menu will help to better suit the needs of individual customers, President and CEO Thorsten Heins said during RIM's fiscal third-quarter financial results call on Thursday. For example, smaller businesses may only need basic BlackBerry e-mail capability and not more advanced services, he said.

Today, RIM's services come in a bundle and are paid for monthly, either directly or through a carrier. Enterprise customers who use several services will continue to generate monthly services revenue for RIM, while some consumer BlackBerry users won't pay anything, Heins said.

RIM will add a variety of new services, including mobile device management for BlackBerry and other devices, when it comes out with BlackBerry 10, Heins said. Enterprises will be able to buy a "platinum" package with all of them or just choose a selection of services.

"We feel our strategy will help broaden the BlackBerry ecosystem over time," Heins said. He declined to say whether users of the current BlackBerry 7 platform would be shifted to the new services model or whether the services would be sold under a contract.

For the fiscal third quarter, which ended Dec. 1, RIM posted revenue and phone unit sales that were down from the previous quarter and from a year earlier, though the company said sales of its PlayBook tablet rose to about 255,000 from 130,000 the previous quarter with the help of promotions.

RIM suffered financially in recent years as it fell behind Apple and other smartphone rivals, but layoffs and other cost-cutting measures have already slashed its annual expenses by more than $1 billion, Heins said.

"We believe the company has stabilized and will turn the corner in the next year," Heins said.

Much rides on the success of BlackBerry 10, which will be introduced at an event in New York on Jan. 30. Carriers that will sell BlackBerry 10 devices will announce dates for availability of the new phones at that time, Heins said on the call.

Carriers and enterprises around the world have responded enthusiastically to the BlackBerry 10 platform, especially its user interface, RIM said. BlackBerry 10 phone are being evaluated at more than 150 carriers and are in beta testing at more than 120 enterprises, according to the company.

However, after the launch, RIM won't stop development of the current BlackBerry 7 platform and may even introduce a few more phones that use the system, Heins said. BlackBerry 7 is popular for entry-level phones in certain markets, especially in Asia, he said. "We will maintain BlackBerry 7," Heins said.

While BlackBerry unit sales fell to 6.9 million in the quarter from 7.4 million in the previous quarter, sales rose outside the U.S., U.K., and Canada and generated 65 percent of device revenue, RIM said. Indonesia, South Africa and Venezuela were among the markets with strong phone sales, the company said.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

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