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AFTER lengthy delays, Research In Motion (RIM) yesterday unveiled its first two phones with the new BlackBerry 10 system.
The Q10 will have a physical keyboard, while the Z10 has only a touch-screen keyboard. RIM also announced a company name change to BlackBerry, to maintain a single brand.
The company redesigned the system to embrace the multimedia, apps and touch-screen experience prevalent today. The question is whether there is time for the once-pioneering BlackBerry to catch up to Apple’s trend-setting iPhone and devices running Google’s Android system.
RIM chief executive Thorsten Heins is hosting the main event in New York. The video of his appearance is being shown at RIM events in Toronto, London, Paris, Dubai, Johannesburg, New Delhi and Jakarta.
The company initially said BlackBerry 10 would come by early last year, but then it changed that to late last year.
A few months later, that date was pushed further, to early this year, missing the lucrative holiday season.
The hold-up helped wipe out more than $70 billion (R633.5bn) in shareholder wealth and 5 000 jobs.
The event marks a do-or-die moment for Heins and the company, which has seen its market share fall to a quarter of what it was three years ago.
RIM is counting on the BlackBerry 10 to reverse that slide and ultimately return the company to profitability.
“This thing has to have legs,” Scotia Capital analyst Gus Papageorgiou said.
Heins and chief marketing officer Frank Boulben have been criss-crossing the globe to show carriers and corporate customers the BlackBerry 10’s features, aiming to distinguish the product from Apple’s iPhone 5 or devices that run on Google’s Android platform.
The touch version of the phone relies on a virtual keyboard that learns where you usually hit the keys, improving typing accuracy over time. Its software also lets users check their e-mail, calendars and other features without leaving application they are running.
RIM is promising a speedier device, a superb typing experience and the ability to keep work and personal identities separate on the same phone.
Previews of the BlackBerry 10 software got favourable reviews on blogs. Financial analysts are starting to see some slight room for a comeback. With smartphone sales growing, the BlackBerry 10 can succeed without iPhone and Android users switching.
Regardless of BlackBerry 10’s advances, the new system will face a key shortcoming: It would not have as many apps written by outside companies and individuals as the iPhone and Android. – Additional reporting by Bloomberg