I’ve been saying for a long time that Research in Motion puts too many eggs in one basket by (generally) allowing CDMA BlackBerry development to lag so far behind GSM development. You can tell me that GSM is the global standard until you are blue in the face but the reality is that the United States is RIM’s most important market and, depending on what numbers you look at, more CDMA BlackBerrys are sold in the U.S. than GSM.
RIM has been able to get by with their old release strategy largely in part because Verizon subscribers generally don’t switch carriers. RIM knows that even if a CDMA BlackBerry is released on Verizon a year after it it first released on a GSM carriers that there will be Verizon subscribers eagerly awaiting its launch.
Although I don’t agree with this strategy I can see some of the benefits of it from RIM’s perspective… The main benefit being that it allows RIM to capture lightening in a bottle twice. If a new GSM BlackBerry is a big hit you can pretty much be sure that the CDMA version will hit big as well. The problem, however, with this strategy is that your biggest GSM carrier becomes the flag ship carrier for the the hottest mobile device, well…ever and that device is not named BlackBerry.
In case you haven’t been keeping up with the news lately, Apple released a little mobile device called the iPhone 3G not quite a month ago and most reports indicate that it it is the fastest selling mobile device in history. It just so happens that not only is AT&T the flag ship carrier for the iPhone, but, they are the exclusive carrier for the iPhone in the United States.
I am not a conspiracy theorist, however, I don’t believe that it is just a coincidence that AT&T is experiencing huge success with the iPhone 3G and the BlackBerry Bold, which was supposed to makes it’s debut last month is probably not coming out until next month or later. AT&T, being the sole carrier of the iPhone in the U.S., has a strong desire to sell as many iPhones as they can. This is not to say that they don’t want to sell as many BlackBerrys as they can, however, I believe that they are going to focus their efforts on what is hot right now.
This is a problem for RIM because GSM BlackBerrys, with the exception of the upcoming BlackBerry Thunder, always come out significantly before their CDMA counterparts. If AT&T isn’t all gung-ho about releasing a new device, this poses a problem for RIM because T-Mobile just isn’t big enough to be the primary GSM provider in the U.S.
To make a long story short, I’d be willing to bet that the BlackBerry Thunder will be the first of several new devices to come out in a CDMA variant first.