It was billed as a make-or-break moment for Research In Motion, as the company unveiled the latest version of its smartphone — the BlackBerry 10 — to the world Wednesday morning.
The previously-named Research In Motion started the day by announcing the Waterloo-based company would change its name to ‘Blackberry’.
Analysts were largely impressed by the unveiling of both the software that will operate the phone and the hardware that will run it.
There will be two versions of the phone released, a complete touch-screen version called the BlackBerry Z10 and a keyboard version (also with touch capabilities) called the BlackBerry Q10.
The BlackBerry Z10 is coming to Canada on February 5th and will be available for $149.99 on a three-year contract.
No firm release date has been given for the keyboard version, BlackBerry Q10, however it is expected to show up on shelves approximately a month later.
- Read coverage from CityNews technology specialist Mike Yawney below, who was at the launch event in New York City.
CEO Thorsten Heins told a large audience at the unveiling event that the new name means a new beginning for the company.
“We have redesigned the BlackBerry experience, we have re-engineered our products, we have re-inveted this company,” Heins said.
CityNews specialist Mike Yawney had the chance to play with the phone, and said it appears to live up to expectations.
“The device looks promising. Is it going to save the company? I don’t think one device can save them, but I definitely think it is going to help rebuild,” Yawney said.
The new phone comes equipped with many high-end features, which analysts say match, and in some cases exceed, the Apple iPhone and Google Android.
“The browser is incredibly fast and intuitive, responsive and elegant, and whatever you do you’re only one swipe away from the heart of your activies,” Heins said.
The new phones appear to focus more on social media connectivity, movies, music and games, along with BlackBerry’s traditional focus on security.
“I think it was smart that they are not just going for the business audience anymore, they are going for just the casual crowd, they just want people to use their device, it doesn’t mean you have to wear a suit-and-tie to use it,” Yawney said.
“BlackBerry had to come with a strong device that not only looks good, but has a good feel when it comes to the operating system, it really does come down to the user experience, and I really think they’re going to deliver that with BlackBerry 10.”
One piece of news which may have spooked investors was that the first version of the phone will not be available in the United States until mid-March.
The stock tumbled approximately 12 per cent during day-trading, however that came after the stock had previously risen more than 150 per cent since its low early this year.
The launch had been hyped for months, after several delays forced the company to push back the date into 2013, missing the lucrative 2012 holiday season.
Once a Canadian tech darling, Blackberry has seen much of its market share eaten away by increasing competition from the Apple iPhone and Google’s Android platform.
Several service outages in past months have also hurt the company, along with the long delay for BB10 and the lack of a new winning product.
The company is hoping the release of the BB10 will change the company’s fortunes, however, and renew the “cool” factor that once surrounded Blackberry phones.
While the first hurdle to overcome was the opinion of tech analysts and investor reaction, the true measure of success — actual sales of the phones — is still weeks away.
In the coming weeks, the company will launch an advertising blitz to promote the phones, including aggressive social media campaigning, which includes plugs from celebrities on their Twitter accounts, and a 30-second advertisement on the Super Bowl, the most watched television program of the year.