As BlackBerry 10 phones near, hopes send RIM stock rising

"RIM will add bring-your-own-device sandboxing and BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) on Android and iOS"

Speculation, rumors, and hopes about the upcoming BlackBerry 10 launch next week have sent Research in Motion's (RIMM - Nasdaq) stock price soaring.

RIM's stock price has been languishing in the $US11-$US12 range on the Nasdaq exchange for weeks, after sinking to a low of $US6.18 last September. That changed on Jan. 18 when it jumped to the $US15-$US18 range after Jefferies Group analyst Peter Misek upgraded his stock recommendation to "buy" from "hold," and his target price for the stock to nearly $US20 from $US13. This morning, the stock jumped quickly from $US9.32 to a peak of $US17.52, starting to dip after that.

BACKGROUND: RIM offers wider peek at new BlackBerry UI

Jefferies' shift, according to several published reports, was based on the firm's assessment that RIM will enable a range of BlackBerry features and services, including email, on other mobile platforms, specifically iOS and Android.

According to one website, Misek wrote: "This change we believe is unknown or not well understood but is important. In the future we think RIM will add bring-your-own-device sandboxing and BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) on Android and iOS."

The stock is likely to get another boost today as investors apparently are set to overreact to comments by RIM CEO Thorsten Heins in an interview published Monday in the German newspaper Die Welt [German language version online]. Yesterday, Canada-based RIM's stock price on the Toronto Stock Exchange jumped 15% after Heins was reported to have said that RIM's ongoing "strategic review" potentially could result in licensing RIM's BlackBerry 10 operating system and other software or selling its handset business.

According to Reuters, reporting on the Die Welt interview, Heins said, "The main thing for now is to successfully introduce Blackberry 10. Then we'll see."

But Heins has been saying the same thing since he took the helm at RIM a year ago and launched the internal strategic review of the company's options. And what he's saying is no more than "we're not ruling anything out."

When Reuters asked a RIM spokesman to comment on the Die Welt interview, his reply: ""We do not have anything new to report on our strategic review at this time."

Yet, as VentureBeat's Ricardo Bilton notes, the move to spin off hardware sales and license the OS "wouldn't make much sense." RIM's ability to mesh its own software and hardware, as Apple does, would be lost; and "there's not a single smartphone maker for which BlackBerry 10 would be an attractive option."

Next week, at multiple locations, RIM will unveil what is expected to be at least two new smartphones, the first to run the BlackBerry 10 operating system. The new OS, which is a complete break with the firmware that's powered all earlier BlackBerry phones, features a radically new UI design built atop the widely used QNX real-time operating system kernel, which RIM acquired in 2010. QNX is the basis for the OS used in RIM's PlayBook tablet, and that software will be upgraded to the production version of BlackBerry 10.

This week, the German website Telekom Presse posted a comparison of what it claims is a BlackBerry Z10 smartphone, running BlackBerry 10, with the iPhone 5. The purported BlackBerry has a slightly larger screen at 4.2 inches, a correspondingly wider and longer body and is somewhat thicker than the current iPhone. Speculation about other features includes: a 1.5GHz dual-core processor, 1280 x 768 resolution, LTE, 2GB of RAM, 16GB or 32GB storage, 8 megapixel rear camera, 2 megapixel front camera, 1800mAh battery, NFC, Bluetooth 4.0, and a microSD port.

Telekom Presse posted a video of the comparison.

RIM is putting the final touches on preparations for the unveiling on Jan. 30. It recently announced a change of its online app store, from BlackBerry App World to BlackBerry World, and said users also will soon be able to download videos and music from the store.

Last week, RIM launched its latest "port-a-thon" to persuade software developers to shift their applications to the new OS. Developers are being offered $100 for each of up to 20 apps that RIM accepts for the online catalog. A port-a-thon earlier in January drew 15,000 submissions in about 36 hours.

Last year, Heins postponed the release of the new OS partly in response to developer and user feedback and partly because of his insistence that it be as solid as possible when released. But the firmware and UI, along with a fast new browser with extensive HTML5 support, a fluid virtual keyboard, and RIM's aggressive courting of and support for developers, garnered praise from developers at the May 2012 BlackBerry World conference.

John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World. Twitter: @johnwcoxnww Email: john_cox@nww.com

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