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BlackBerry 10 phones being tested by carriers as Pentagon says it will keep using RIM handsets

It’s encouraging. It’s a step in the right direction. It might mean Research In Motion (RIM) really will fulfill its promise of a first-quarter 2013 launch of its next-generation BlackBerry 10 OS and handsets.

RIM CEO Thorsten Heins announced in a statement on Wednesday that handsets running the new OS were now being tested by more than 50 carriers worldwide.

Heins said reaching the testing phase meant the company had “passed a critical milestone” in the development of its new mobile computing platform.

“The hard work will not stop here as we build towards launch,” Heins said in the statement, adding, “Our developer teams are continuing to generate momentum to bring a wealth of applications to BlackBerry 10, our enterprise teams have started to present BlackBerry 10 devices and services to our business customers, and our engineers are fully mobilized to ensure that BlackBerry 10 launches flawlessly in the first quarter of 2013.”

In an interview with the BBC last week, Heins urged consumers not to underestimate “the dynamic [BlackBerry 10] is going to create in the market.”

In other news involving the mobile company, the Pentagon made clear this week that it would carry on supporting “large numbers” of BlackBerry handsets despite going ahead with plans to allow the US military to use other devices such as the iPhone.

“The Defense Information Systems Agency is managing an enterprise email capability that continues to support large numbers of RIM devices,” a spokesman told Reuters this week. A number of government agencies and businesses have said in the last year they would be issuing staff with iOS or Android devices, ending long-standing contracts with BlackBerry. While the Pentagon also appears to be relaxing its association with RIM, things are so serious at the Canadian company that the defense agency’s announcement that it’s not switching entirely to rival devices will actually be perceived as good news by many.

The BlackBerry was once the phone of choice for many agencies and firms thanks largely to its strong security features. However, security on rival handsets such as Apple’s iPhone and a number of Android-powered devices has improved over time, offering an alternative to the BlackBerry.

The launch of RIM’s next-generation OS and handsets is its make-or-break moment. Perhaps the Canadian mobile maker – once the country’s most valuable company – can still turn things around, remain a viable player in the mobile game and consequently help to keep competitors on their toes.

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