BlackBerry 10 Debuts, New Phones Launch

By Craig Galbraith Comments
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"From today on, we are BlackBerry everywhere in the world."

That was the message from RIM president and CEO Thorstein Heins, who, in officially unveiling the BlackBerry 10 operating system and a pair of new smartphones on Wednesday, said that the name Research In Motion, or RIM for short, will cease to exist. The company is dropping the name, going strictly by "BlackBerry" going forward.

BlackBerry Z10The first of the new devices – the Z10 – has a 4.2-inch touchscreen. It's an LTE device with a 1.5 GHZ, dual-core processor; 2GB RAM; and is just a little thicker than Apple's iPhone 5. The second device – the Q10 – looks a little more like a traditional BlackBerry phone with a physical keyboard.

Emphasizing the devices' appeal to the general consumer, Heins reassured the company's longtime business users that BlackBerry 10 goes beyond just a good browser, camera, apps and fast networking "with secure communications and a real-time platform," Fox News reported.

That new platform includes upgrades to the BlackBerry Messenger service; BlackBerry Flow, which integrates multitasking; and a virtual keyboard that lets you flick words onto the device's screen. The Canada-based manufacturer hopes its business users will not have to carry separate phones for work and personal use, citing a new, single "unified experience."

As predicted, BlackBerry also promoted its new BlackBerry World store, which – like Google Play for Android and the Apple iTunes store – will offer apps, music, books and more all under one umbrella.

All major carriers in the U.S. plan to offer the new phones; expect to see them shipped in mid-March for spring release dates. You'll likely pay $199 at Verizon, Sprint, AT&T T-Mobile on contract.

BlackBerry has struggled mightily to complete with Apple and a bevy of Android smartphone manufacturers in recent years who have left the once-great device maker behind. Industry insiders are lining up on both sides of the fence with their predictions for BB10. While many are high on the platform's possibilities, they're not ready to commit to big sales.

"Blackberry has rightly focused on insuring that the Blackberry 10 devices have a large catalog of content and applications which is now essential for any modern smartphone, and achieving 70,000 applications at the launch of a new platform is good start," said Adam Leach, principal analyst at Ovum. "However, Ovum believes that 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 and in the long-term will become a niche player in the smartphone market."

Calling the Z10 an "innovative icon," Informa Telecoms & Media analyst Malik Saadi is more bullish, saying the Z10 could "make a good start in developed markets and could potentially challenge devices such as Samsung Galaxy S III and Apple’s iPhone," but added that "given that consumers are generally slow to adapt to new user experiences, they might find it hard to connect with Z10’s user interface from the first touch. The minimalistic design of the phone means it does not feature the traditional physical ‘buttons’ users are accustomed to ..."

Investors, listening to positive first impressions from wireless carriers over the last three months, have helped double RIM's stock price; however, it was down 6 percent after Wednesday's announcement.

Follow senior online managing editor @Craig_Galbraith on Twitter.

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