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BlackBerry 10 may not launch until March 2013, warns analyst

Research In Motion has tipped an "early 2013" launch for its BlackBerry 10 operating system, but those hoping to get their hands on it shortly after the New Year might be disappointed. A new analyst report suggests that it won't arrive until March.

"We had hoped for a Jan launch ... but now see a March launch as more likely," Jefferies analyst Peter Misek said in a note to investors.Though "management has been silent as to the timing" of a BlackBerry 10 launch, "we believe plans for a Jan launch have now been pushed back until March, which means BB10 will miss RIM's" Februrary quarter, Misek wrote.

A RIM spokesman said that the company remains on target to launch BlackBerry 10 in the first quarter of the calendar year 2013, but declined to comment further on a specific schedule.

The future of BlackBerry 10 was thrown into question earlier this year when RIM announced that it would delay its launch of the OS from the fall to early 2013. According to RIM, the delay is due to the "large volume of software code" that needs to be ported to the new platform. The hold-up is not related to quality or functionality, RIM CEO Thorsten Heins has said several times.

RIM showed off BlackBerry 10 in a bit more depth at the company's recent BlackBerry Jam.

Given the delay, RIM is facing a tough fall and holiday season, Misek wrote today.

"Our checks point to a tough [November quarter] with replenishment rates decreasing as channel partners are cautious on holding RIM inventory," Misek said. Business uncertainty means companies are unlikely to license from RIM until the new OS launches, he wrote.

Misek pointed to the possible sale of RIM, but said that is unlikely to transpire before the launch of BB10. Samsung and other Asian OEMs might be interested, he said, but will see a better forecast months after the new OS release.

All hope may not be lost for the BlackBerry maker. Jefferies points to the possibility of a third ecosystem emerging, but that hangs on whether or not RIM can convince Samsung, Huawei, and ZTE to license, while those companies pursue their own operating systems.

Huawei and ZTE may not be the best business partners, though. The House Intelligence Committee released a report that urged US businesses and governments not to use ZTE or Huawei equipment due to national security concerns. Huawei and ZTE have denied any wrongdoing.

Misek also considered Windows Phone 8 to be somewhat of a threat to RIM. "But conflicting reviews, less-than-stellar developer feedback, and the desire by Microsoft to make hardware directly make Win 8 unlikely to have better odds at becoming the third ecosystem," he wrote.