RIM says BlackBerry 10 devices now being tested by carriers

The new operating system enters carrier labs as it rolls toward a winter 2013 launch

The first wave of devices running BlackBerry 10, Research in Motion's new smartphone operating system, have entered carrier certification labs around the world, the company said today. The lab entry allows cellular carriers to begin evaluating the smartphones for use on their networks and is a key step toward them going on sale.

RIM didn't disclose the carriers or the countries involved. CEO Thorsten Heins said he had spent several weeks visiting partners around the world to demonstrate the operating system.

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The announcement comes as the first handsets running Microsoft's Windows Phone 8 are hitting the market. They are due on sale in Europe this weekend, and Nokia distributed free samples of its Lumia 920 to several thousand software developers attending Microsoft's Build 2012 conference on Tuesday. Microsoft's deep ties with enterprises make its new OS a potentially serious competitor for business use.

The BlackBerry has long found support among enterprise IT departments, but consumers have increasingly jumped to iPhone and Android platforms, putting pressure on companies to support other platforms. Just last week the Department of Defense said it is planning to build a system to support phones other than BlackBerry, and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency said it would buy iPhones for its more than 17,600 employees.

Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for the IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

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