Anyone with even a passing familiarity with the mobile industry knows the backstory to Research In Motion’s (NASDAQ:RIMM) big reveal this morning.
The smartphone pioneer ceded serious ground in the consumer space to Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and companies using Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android. It fell hopelessly behind, repeatedly delayed new operating system and smartphones, began losing that core business/government client base, replaced co-CEOs (including one company co-founder) and watched its stock tank 95% in four years.
It all comes down to this: The new BB10 operating system and new launch phones.
How’d RIM do?
First … There’s No More RIM
Research In Motion is rebranding itself. Its new name will be BlackBerry, and its Nasdaq-listed ticker will change from RIMM to BBRY. To keep double-takes at a minimum, I’m sticking with RIM/RIMM for this story.
RIM’s 2010 acquisition of QNX has finally paid off with a new, modern mobile operating system to take on Apple’s iOS, Google’s Android and Microsoft’s (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows Phone 8. Among the BB10 highlights:
- BlackBerry Hub: Centralized communications management for email, social media updates and messages without having to open individual apps.
- Flow: True multitasking and swipe navigation between running apps.
- Peek: Ability to continue with one app (watching video, for example) while simultaneously checking another in an onscreen window.
- Balance: A critical feature intended to allow a BlackBerry user to carry one device with two profiles (one for work, one for personal use) and the ability to easily move between the two.
- Remember: Flags browser bookmarks, email, docs and other files related to a topic and organizes them in a single folder.
- Timeshift: BB camera takes multiple photos for more effective editing.
- Storymaker: Built-in content editor (music, photos, video).
- Improved virtual keyboard functionality with “flick” motion predictive text and multi-language support.
- Support for video calls and screen sharing over BBM.
And, as expected, RIMM unveiled two new BB10 smartphones this morning.
RIMM repeatedly dissed touchscreen devices like the iPhone with their virtual keyboards and never had much success with its own versions. The new BlackBerry Z10 is a huge step forward for RIMM. It’s finally got the power to compete and looks good; even Gizmodo, which is known for often unflattering BlackBerry coverage, said that while previous BlackBerries were “disgraceful ugly bricks,” the new Z10 is “hotter than the iPhone.”
- Dual-core Snapdragon S4 Plus CPU with 2 GB RAM
- 4.2-inch, 1280 x 768 display (356 dpi)
- LTE, Bluetooth 4.0 and NFC support
- 8 MP primary camera (with 1080p recording)
- Thickness of 0.37 inches and weight of 4.9 ounces
- Aluminum and textured plastic body
- Available in black or white, with white reportedly being exclusive to Verizon (NYSE:VZ)
- Priced starting at $199 on two-year contract in U.S.
A physical QWERTY keyboard has been a key BlackBerry feature since day one. While customers have largely turned to touchscreen devices, there still are loyal fans of RIMM’s old-school tactile approach, so a QWERTY model was a requirement.
- 3.1-inch, 720 x 720 display (330 ppi)
- 1.5 GHz CPU with 2 GB RAM
- LTE support
- Glass weave back cover is light, but stronger than plastic
- Available in black or silver
After the actual product reveals, the single most important question is when? At the rate RIMM is losing market share, every day counts. The sooner the new devices get onto shelves, the sooner existing customers can upgrade and the sooner potential new customers can choose a BlackBerry over an iPhone or Galaxy S.
According to RIMM, the touchscreen Z10 will be available tomorrow in the U.K., on Feb. 5 in Canada, but the critical U.S. market will have to wait until March. The QWERTY keyboard Q10 wasn’t specifically mentioned, but speculation has a release in April.
No-one is expecting to see iPhone-level lineups for the new BlackBerries, but analysts will be watching the sales numbers closely and comparing them against recent iPhone 5 and Samsung (PINK:SSNLF) Galaxy S III launches.
For a look at what others are saying about the launch, check out this host of review snapshots on The Techblock.
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.