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Testing of new BlackBerry begins

Will go on sale to public Jan. 30

– Research In Motion Ltd. said BlackBerry 10, the new smartphone lineup intended to revive its fortunes, was scheduled to begin testing Monday at more than 120 U.S. companies, including 64 members of the Fortune 500.

So-called beta testing will involve the new BlackBerry 10 touch-screen model and related enterprise software, said Richard Piasentin, managing director of RIM’s U.S. business. RIM is picking up costs for the trials, which are focused on the touch-screen model, a design that’s less familiar to many corporate customers than the traditional Qwerty keyboard version, he said.

“We’re keenly targeting the launch of our touch-screen device and we want to bring that experience to our clients,” Piasentin said in an interview. While the tests stop short of being actual orders, “these clients have agreed to implement the full solution into their infrastructure,” which shows their level of commitment, he said.

RIM, based in Waterloo, Ontario, is widening its pilot projects to build enthusiasm for the phones, which debut to the public Jan. 30 and go on sale in February on multiple continents. A successful start is critical if BlackBerry 10 is to regain some of the market share it has lost in recent years to Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android software.

Consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton and the National Transportation Safety Board are two of the latest organizations to recently stop using BlackBerrys.

RIM is winning back some converts. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency said last week that it will test the new software and devices, even after announcing plans in mid-October to spend $2.1 million on more than 17,000 Apple iPhones.

The trial participants represent industries such as financial services, insurance, health care and media, Piasentin said.

Though all 120 companies are based in the U.S., many are global, and so the testing will be done across their international operations, Piasentin said.

He declined to name any of the businesses until they have agreed to discuss the trials publicly.

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