After months of speculation about its chances for survival, Research in Motion made it clear today that RIM will not be around much longer — the company is changing its name to BlackBerry. “We have reinvented the company, and we want to represent this in our brand,” said CEO Thorstein Heins, who took the helm at the troubled Canadian smartphone maker roughly a year ago — a year he now calls the most challenging of his career.
Of course the company unveiled much more than a new name today. At a New York press event, it launched the BlackBerry 10 operating system, the BlackBerry Z10 touchscreen smartphone and the BlackBerry Q10, a hybrid smartphone that includes a touchscreen and a QWERTY keyboard.
The BlackBerry Z10, which the company says will be available to most U.S. carriers by mid-March, sports a 4.2-inch display and is powered by a 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 Plus processor — no longer the most powerful offering from smartphone chip giant Qualcomm, but fast enough to make the Z10 comparable to other high-end smartphones. It’s LTE-ready and is expected to retail for $200.
The new phone is the showcase for the BB10 operating system, which is launching with 70,000 available apps. (iOS and Android each have about 700,000.) The BB10 OS enables users to maintain two encrypted “personas” on one device, meaning that in theory they will not be using the corporate network to download apps for personal use. This appeals to corporate IT managers who are tasked with securing networks that are increasingly compromised by personal devices.
But corporate IT managers are not the biggest buyers of smartphones; consumers are. BlackBerry’s market share has fallen below 5% as consumers have flocked to iOS and Android models. “The challenge for the company will be to attract new users and those that have already moved to alternative smartphones,” said Adam Leach, principal analyst at Ovum.
The Z10 is evidence that the company is courting consumers. It includes front and rear-facing video recording (720p in the front and 1080p in the rear) and the TimeShift technology BlackBerry acquired from Scalado, which lets users combine the best of multiple camera shots into one. Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are also onboard, as is an NFC chip.
Investors were not impressed with BlackBerry’s new offering. After opening sharply higher, the company’s shares tumbled after its press conference.
“Despite a well-designed Blackberry 10 platform, that will certainly attract short-term interest from existing users, the company will struggle to appeal to a wider audience,” said Ovum’s Leach. “In the long-term [BlackBerry] will become a niche player in the smartphone market.”
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