BUSINESS

RIM’s slow motion Meteor

STEVE MAICH May 12 2008
BUSINESS

RIM’s slow motion Meteor

STEVE MAICH May 12 2008

RIM’s slow motion Meteor

There’s nothing quite like a new product launch to get the world’s legions of techies excited. And when the gadget is coming from Canada’s high-tech darling, Research in Motion, and is expected to go head-to-head with the world’s reigning champion of ultra-cool gizmos, Apple Computer, you have the makings of a geekhype hurricane.

Last week, the storm made landfall with super-secret reports that RIM’s new 9000series phone will not be released until August, rather than June, as many had anticipated. The 9000 series, said to be called the Meteor, is expected to be key to RIM’s efforts to hold off the challenge of Apple’s iPhone. Any suggestion of problems with the Meteor is enough to start tongues wagging in cyberspace, and all the speculation sent RIM’s stock for a small swoon last Friday.

But observers couldn’t even agree last week on whether the August release date was a change of plans, let alone reason for concern. Unnamed RIM insiders told various blogs and analysts that there were minor software issues and concerns about call quality that are still being worked out, but the company wasn’t commenting on the record. Others speculate that AT&T pressured RIM to hold off for a few weeks so it could maximize the buzz around the upcoming debut of the next-generation iPhone. But analyst Peter Misek at Canaccord Adams said he’s known all year that the 9000 series was bound for a late-summer launch, and he doesn’t see what all the fuss is about.

The furious speculation does, however, underline the importance of the 9000 series to RIM’s future growth. After close to a decade dominating the field by selling BlackBerrys to professionals, the next frontier is the consumer market. Pushing pocket Web browsers and email devices to teens, twentysomethings and suburban moms is a potential gold mine, and Apple is seen as the company to beat.

RIM’s move to an August rollout may not be a big deal, but how the Meteor performs once it hits the streets certainly is. M

STEVE MAICH