Long-overdue BlackBerry makeover arrives

Wednesday 30 January 2013 16.40
RIM chief executive Thorsten Heins unveiled the latest Blackberry today
RIM chief executive Thorsten Heins unveiled the latest Blackberry today

BlackBerry has launched the new smartphones and software it hopes will help turn a corner and restore it to the top table in mobile technology.

The BlackBerry 10 operating system, the Z10 touchscreen phone and Q10, which has a Qwerty keyboard, were launched at an event in New York that was beamed live to London and other venues around the world.

As part of the launch it was also announced that the company behind the phone, Research In Motion, would rebrand to BlackBerry, bringing it in line with its core product line.

Thorsten Heins, president and chief executive of BlackBerry, said the new software system was centred around the BlackBerry Hub, whose key feature is the ability to amalgamate information from multiple apps, like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn simultaneously within your phone in "real time".

"We intend to lead the move from mobile communication to mobile computing," he said.

The unveiling was designed to appeal to BlackBerry's core business users as much as social users of systems like BlackBerry Messenger (BBM).

It also allows you to use your phone for both work and personal use but keep them separately secure, Mr Heins said, with the hope of encouraging people to "go from using two devices to one".

The BlackBerry had been the dominant smartphone for on-the-go business people and crossed over to consumers. But when the iPhone came out in 2007, it showed that phones can do much more than email and phone calls. Suddenly, the BlackBerry looked ancient.

In the US, according to research firm IDC, shipments of BlackBerry phones plummeted from 46% of the market in 2008 to 2% in 2012. RIM promised a new system to catch up, using technology it got through its 2010 purchase of QNX Software Systems.

RIM initially said BlackBerry 10 would come by early 2012, but then the company changed that to late 2012. A few months later, that date was pushed further, to early 2013, missing the lucrative Christmas season. The holdup helped wipe out more than $70 billion in shareholder wealth and 5,000 jobs.

However there has been some optimism about the company recently.

Previews of the BlackBerry 10 software have gotten favourable reviews on blogs, while financial analysts are starting to see some slight room for a comeback.

RIM's stock has more than doubled to $15.66 from a nine-year low in September, though it is still nearly 90% below its 2008 peak of $147.

There are 70,000 apps available for the new system already via Blackberry World, the firm said, with Skype, Amazon Kindle and Angry Birds amongst those committed to the system.

That is just a tenth of what the iPhone and Android offer. Popular service such as Instagram and Netflix will not have apps on BlackBerry 10.