Amid Long Odds, BlackBerry Maker Unveils New Line and New Name (Superbowl ad is coming…)

 

After numerous delays and development hiccups, RIM has finally unveiled it’s  next generation BlackBerrys on Wednesday, a new lineup of smartphones that could  make or break the company.

The company also dropped its Research in Motion moniker in favor of the  BlackBerry brand.

“From today on, we are BlackBerry everywhere in the world,” president and CEO  Thorstein Heins said. “One brand, one promise.”

Heins showed off two new phones at simultaneous events across cities around  the world including New York, Toronto, London, Paris, Johannesburg, Jakarta and  Dubai.

The Z10 resembles the smartphones most of us have become accustomed to since  the dawn of the iPhone with a large 4.2-inch screen while the Q10 maintains the  company’s iconic physical keyboard, an addition that will surely appeal to the  BlackBerry faithful. Both run the company’s next generation operating system,  BlackBerry 10.

‘A good browser, apps, good camera, and fast networking in your  smartphone is just expected today.’

– BlackBerry president and CEO Thorstein Heins

 

“A good browser, apps, good camera, and fast networking in your smartphone is  just expected today,” Heins said. “BlackBerry 10 goes beyond that with secure  communications, and a real-time platform.”

U.S. carriers will announce pre-registration today. Although there are no  concrete release dates, the new phones are expected to ship in mid-March. The  Z10 is expected to cost $199 with a contract and will be available on Verizon,  AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint.

The LTE-ready Z10 comes outfitted with a 4.2-inch 1,280 x 768 display and  measures in at 5.13 x 2.6 x 0.37 inches, making it slightly thicker than the  iPhone 5 and Samsung’s flagship Galaxy S III. Powering the 138 gram phone is a  1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 Plus with 2GB RAM.

On stage, Heins demonstrated a slew of innovative features unique to the new  platform, including a virtual keyboard that allows you to flick words onto the  screen, multi-tasking integration called BlackBerry Flow and a robust  re-envisioning of the Blackberry Messenger experience. Of emphasis was  “BlackBerry Balance,” the platform’s ability to seamlessly merge both work and  play in a single unified experience. For corporate users, it could mean finally  ditching the practice of carrying around two phones.

But in the age of “ecosystems,” simply having a solid phone with great  software is no longer enough. Users expect more. They want their favorite apps  and easy access to all the digital entertainment — games, music, videos, books,  sports — that they’ve all grown accustomed to. On this front, BlackBerry didn’t  disappoint.

The new BlackBerry World is the company’s answer to the iTunes Store and  Google Play and already includes over 70,000 apps and support from eight movie  studios and all major music labels. BlackBerry 10 launches with support for  Facebook, LinkedIn, Foursquare, the NHL, Major League Baseball and more. Skype,  Angry Birds and WhatsApp among others have all pledged their support for the  platform although there were some notable absences. Instagram was nowhere to be  seen.

Whether or not the new releases can put up a serious challenge against Apple  and Android remains to be seen. In the months leading up to the launch,  BlackBerry’s stock has soared. But mere days before the launch, analysts were  split over whether the new phones could save the company. Following the  announcement, BlackBerry’s stock was down over 6 percent.

“RIM continues to face the twin demons of consumer-driven buying power and a  chronic inability to appeal to mature market consumers. There is nothing in what  we’ve seen so far of BB10 that suggests it will conquer the second of these  demons, and the first is utterly out of RIM’s control,” said Jan Dawson, chief  telecoms analyst for Ovum. “Its glory days are past, and it is only a matter of  time before it reaches a natural end.”

Others, however, believe this could be an opportunity for a serious  comeback.

“This year we will see multiple attempts to fight the Samsung/Apple  smartphone duopoly in smartphone hardware—along with the twin Google/Apple  duopoly in smartphone operating systems,” said Ian Fogg, senior principal  analyst at IHS. “Because of the fast-rising adoption of smartphones, 2013  represents the last, best hope for RIM’s BlackBerry 10—along with endangered  specimens like Microsoft’s Windows Phone, Nokia’s Lumia and Mozilla’s Firefox—to  create a viable third smartphone competitor in the market.”

For BlackBerry, the realization that this could be the company’s last chance  saloon has culminated in an unprecedented marketing push. Heins revealed that  singer-songwriter Alicia Keys would be the company’s new Global Creative  Director. And next week, the new BlackBerry will be featured in its first ever  Super Bowl ad.

 

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