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BB 10 buzz: RIM says 1600 companies have signed up for its BlackBerry 10 training program

In an effort to increase the buzz surrounding the imminent launch of its next-generation BlackBerry 10 handsets and mobile operating system, Research In Motion has in recent months been feeding the media with various updates about the new platform.

The marketing drive continued Wednesday with Bryan Lee – RIM’s senior enterprise accounts director – announcing that 1600 businesses in North America have signed up for the company’s recently launched BlackBerry 10 Ready Program, with over a 1000 already using it.

The training program is designed to familiarize BB10 users with the new OS and help them “discover tools, resources and special offers” so they’ll be all set when the first handsets hit the market some time next month.

Lee told Reuters he was “very enthused by the engagement and response of our customer base.” Although he declined to reveal the names of any of the companies who had signed up, Lee told Bloomberg that among them were “Fortune 500 companies, law firms, schools, universities, retailers and government agencies.” If the majority of businesses that have so far signed up fall into these categories, then it surely augurs well for the mobile maker.

RIM, once the darling of the business community with its range of BlackBerry devices, has seen a sharp decline in its North American customer base in recent years, with customers turning to competing offerings such as the iPhone and Android-powered handsets. With so many firms and government agencies dumping the BlackBerry in recent months in favor of rival handsets, last year wasn’t only grim for RIM, it was downright catastrophic. BB10 is RIM’s last throw of the dice – it has to win back these contracts. or at least make some lucrative new ones, in order to survive.

“Don’t underestimate the dynamic this platform is going to create in the market,” RIM CEO Thorsten Heins said in an interview in October. The man tasked with turning around the fortunes of RIM carries a heavy weight on his shoulders, for sure. Will he, and RIM, be able to deliver?

We managed to get our hands on a near-final build of BB10 at CES last week and, while not perfect (we did say “near” final, after all), we were pretty impressed with what we saw.

RIM will unveil BB10 at a special event set to take place simultaneously in several countries on January 30.

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