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Top 4 Risks to BlackBerry 10

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Almost everyone is rooting for BlackBerry these days. The users want real keyboards, combined with a modern operating system. The carriers want competition to Google (GOOG), Apple (AAPL) and Microsoft (MSFT). The journalists want a fight. Even Wall Street is suddenly blowing life into the RIM (RIMM) BlackBerry story.

So we all want the new BlackBerry 10 to succeed. The two initial products -- one pure touchscreen and the other in the traditional BlackBerry keyboard form factor -- will be shown in their final form on Jan. 30. Based on reading the tea leaves, I believe the touchscreen-only version will be in stores by March and the keyboard version by May.

As much as we are rooting for RIM to regain its former glory, however, we have to be aware of the potential potholes that may be lurking ahead. I hereby outline the top four risks for RIM in terms of its BlackBerry 10 launch:

1. Contracts required. BlackBerry 10 is "last call" for RIM, at least in many countries. Many people have already left, mostly for Apple and Google smartphones, while others maintain two phones but are looking to consolidate to one. Yet others might be willing to sample BlackBerry 10 before they decide.

What could RIM do to throw cold water on its last chance in the market? How about requiring a two-year contract for its new, unproven, platform? Exactly. If RIM really wants to pick up a gun and shoot a big hole through its head to punctuate its last chance for survival, it should sell BlackBerry 10 through carriers requiring you to sign a two-year contract on an unproven platform.

If BlackBerry 10 is going to have a snowball's chance in hell of succeeding, it must do what Google did with its Nexus, or what Apple does with its iPhone: Offer the option to sell a carrier-independent device, SIM-unlocked and contract-free, directly from its own Web site, as well as Amazon (AMZN), Best Buy (BBY) and so forth.

People want to try BlackBerry 10. They don't want to sign a two-year contract for the privilege to sample an unproven platform.

2. Special plans required. One of the most annoying things about BlackBerry to date has been that it needs a special data plan for the data service. You can't just stick a regular generic data SIM card from an Android or iPhone into a BlackBerry, and expect the data service to work. You need to change the carrier's data plan, and it sometimes costs more.
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