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 Wednesday.
The lab entry allows cellular carriers to begin evaluating the phones for use on their networks and is a key step toward them going on sale.
"I'm very pleased to confirm that we have passed a critical milestone in the development of our brand-new mobile computing platform, BlackBerry 10," said Thorsten Heins, president and CEO of Research In Motion, in a statement. "This process will continue in the coming months as more carriers around the world formally evaluate the devices and our brand-new software."
The company didn't disclose the carriers or the countries involved. Heins said he had spent several weeks visiting partners around the world to demonstrate the operating system.
"Their response has been tremendous. They are excited about the prospect of launching BlackBerry 10 in their markets," he said.
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.
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.
Microsoft's deep ties with enterprises make its new OS a potentially serious competitor for business use.
Indeed, Heins said his company has started presenting its new platform to business users.
"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," he wrote.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org