Smartphone maker RIM hopes it has the right number

Launch of latest BlackBerry seen as the last chance for Canadian firm to get back into a market now dominated by Apple and Google

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 31 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 January, 2013, 5:39am

BlackBerry launched its comeback effort yesterday with a revamped platform and a pair of sleek new handsets, along with a company name change as part of a move to reinvent the smartphone maker.

Canadian-based Research in Motion said it had changed its name to BlackBerry as it launched the BlackBerry 10, the new platform aimed at helping the firm regain traction in a market now dominated by rivals.

"From this point forward RIM becomes BlackBerry," chief executive Thorsten Heins told a glitzy unveiling in New York. "It is one brand, it is one promise."

The company unveiled two new devices for its new platform, one with a physical keyboard called the Q10, and a touchscreen handset dubbed Z10.

The new BlackBerry "would transform mobile communications into true mobile computing", Heins said.

The launch is seen as critical to BlackBerry, which had been the dominant smartphone maker before Apple launched its iPhone and others began using the Google Android operating system.

RIM says the all-new system will break new ground by allowing customers to flip between applications seamlessly and without first passing through a home page, to boost efficiency and multitasking.

Another key asset of BlackBerry 10 is what RIM dubbed the "BlackBerry balance", a system that allows users to separate professional communications and applications from music, photographs and other personal items.

Such an option means that if a user changes jobs, his or her former company can disable the device's corporate side without affecting personal data.

RIM's recent performance on Wall Street suggests the market is open to the BlackBerry 10. Shares have risen more than 30 per cent since the start of the year, although they dropped back over the last two sessions.

Carolina Milanesi, an analyst for Gartner who specialises in consumer devices, said a successful launch would at least give the company a chance to get back into the game, but that the new BlackBerry had little room for error, after a launch delayed several months.

"They will not be forgiven for any mistakes," she said.

Investors evidently did not like what they saw. RIM's stock fell 71 cents, or more than 4 per cent, in early afternoon trading. But Ian Nakamoto of investment firm MacDougall, MacDougall & MacTier put that down to profit taking.

"I think a lot of it was built into the market and people are taking some profits. They took some profits yesterday and even Friday. For RIM, it's a normal stock market day. It would have been an abnormal stock market day if it had got cut in half."

The first of the new BlackBerrys will go on sale in the next week in Canada and Britain, but will not be released in the US until March.