BlackBerry 10 could launch in January, delay could lead to shareholder lawsuit

In an interview with CIO, RIM chief executive Thorsten Heins spoke in more detail than usual about the company’s recent struggles and the impending launch of BlackBerry 10.

He pointed to an overemphasis on global expansion, rather than keeping up with current technologies, as being one of the reasons for the company’s failure to compete with smartphones like the iPhone and the Galaxy S3 and its consequent $518 million (£333 million) quarterly loss.

Heins also revealed that BB10 could launch in January and confirmed that the first RIM device to run on the platform will be a full-touch device, poised to help the company “compete in the North American market” and “win market share back.” The plan is to follow that up with the release of a handset featuring a physical QWERTY keyboard.

The BB10 launch, initially scheduled to coincide with the 2012 holiday season, has been delayed until the beginning of 2013. But Hein’s mention of a January launch is more specific than we’ve heard before.

“The delay is because our software groups were actually so successful in coding the various feature components and building blocks that...we got overwhelmed by integration efforts,” he said, attributing the hold-up to “too much” innovation.

“I had to make a decision. I could actually have kept the schedule, if I had made a sacrifice on quality and on platform stability. And I decided not to do that, because I need to make sure that when we deliver a BlackBerry, it is best quality,” Heins explained.

He also went on to admit that missing the holiday season was a disappointment, but could prove to be fortuitous for the struggling company. Launching in early 2013 without the “noise” of the holiday period could mean more attention for BB10, he said. Though Heins disclosed no further details about the platform’s launch schedule, he described it as a “one-two punch” and said the delay will not prove to be as “dramatic” as it appears.

Though Heins claims to be confident about the decision to postpone the BB10 launch, the hold-up may bring more bad news for RIM.

The announcement was met with accusations that the company misled investors. Though RIM swiftly denied that characterisation, some analysts believe a shareholder lawsuit could be on the horizon.

“There’s a high risk of litigation here,” Duke law professor James D. Cox told the New York Times. “The outcome of the litigation would be hard to predict.”

“They’re going to get sued and they should get sued because I think a closer look at the record is likely to unearth knowing and willful misrepresentation,” agreed Jean-Louis Gassée, a blogger and venture capitalist who used to head Apple’s products division.

RIM’s annual meeting this week will likely unveil more details about the company’s past, present, and future goings-on.