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How RIM's new marketing chief sees its developer prospects

A perspective from the newly named chief marketing officer, who says he's impressed by the amount of support still behind BlackBerry.

Roger Cheng Former Executive Editor / Head of News
Roger Cheng (he/him/his) was the executive editor in charge of CNET News, managing everything from daily breaking news to in-depth investigative packages. Prior to this, he was on the telecommunications beat and wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal for nearly a decade and got his start writing and laying out pages at a local paper in Southern California. He's a devoted Trojan alum and thinks sleep is the perfect -- if unattainable -- hobby for a parent.
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Roger Cheng
3 min read
The keynote speech in Orlando, Fla., during which BlackBerry 10 was announced. Brian Bennett/CNET

Frank Boulben, the new chief marketing officer at Research In Motion, did his homework before joining the company.

Boulben, who jumped off the sinking ship that was wireless startup LightSquared, tapped his Rolodex of contacts and friends within the carrier and developer communities to see if the RIM position was a job worth taking. To his surprise, he found there was still a lot of support behind RIM and BlackBerry. In particular, his friends were high on BlackBerry 10.

"The feedback was positive," Boulben told me in an interview. "From a technical standpoint, they like the platform and what it can deliver."

Having been with the company for about four weeks, Boulben offers a perspective of a newcomer to RIM, one unburdened with the stresses and struggles of the past few years.

His take on the developer support is that things are surprisingly strong. I've talked about the lengths that RIM is going to in order to attract developers, including using cash incentives and guarantees. Boulben said BlackBerry 10's ease of use and technical capabilities are still luring developers. The company has also lined up carrier-billing agreements to make it easier for developers to charge for apps and in-app purchases.

I expressed my skepticism about the interest. So he offered up as further evidence the various BlackBerry Jam developer events the company holds around the world. Boulben said they continue to sell out.

"There is a lot of enthusiasm," he said. "We will have a critical mass of applications."

He said he's been impressed by the support the company has gotten, both on the developer and carrier sides.

Many of the developers are eyeing the current base of 78 million BlackBerry users, betting that a lot of them will upgrade to BlackBerry 10, Boulben said.

RIM, however, recently made the disappointing decision todelay the release of BlackBerry 10 to next year, pushing it back from its original launch target in the second half. It's just the latest in several delays for the platform, which originally was supposed to debut in the second half of last year.

The delay hasn't dampened the enthusiasm, Boulben said.

More importantly, he said carrier support remains strong despite the delay. He added that some carriers find the first-quarter 2013 launch schedule to be better since there are other phones to support in the latter half of this year.

Boulben said he plans to keep interest up on BlackBerry 10 by eventually talking more about the capabilities of the smartphone. As marketing chief, he'll have his work cut out for him in keeping the brand relevant over the next few months, particularly with a slew of rival phones coming out.

He believes that next year will bring renewed success. All RIM needs is a good product, and Boulben is optimistic.

"The (BlackBerry 10) platform is truly differentiated," he said. "It's not a me-too smartphone. It will really introduce a step change in the smartphone experience."

A closer look at BlackBerry OS 10

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