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Back up against wall, RIM looks toward BlackBerry 10

RIM endured a brutal fiscal Q4. Will the new BlackBerry 10 OS be enough to save the Canadian tech giant? 

By Matthew Shaer / March 30, 2012

RIM, the maker of the BlackBerry smartphone, recorded a dismal fiscal Q4. Here, visitors inspect Blackberry mobile phones at their booth at the CeBit computer fair in Hanover, Germany.

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Research In Motion reported yesterday on its fiscal fourth quarter results, and the results aren't good: revenue plummeted 19 percent to $4.2 billion, global sales dropped 21 percent to 11.1 million units, and in Q4 alone, the company lost $125 million. Meanwhile, Jim Balsillie, once the co-CEO of RIM – he was replaced by Thorsten Heins earlier this year – is stepping down from the board of directors. 

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RIM, of course, is the manufacturer of the BlackBerry line of smartphones, which for many years sold solidly in the US and abroad. But RIM has recently weathered a series of missteps, including the launch of its ill-fated BlackBerry PlayBook, and since last year, its market share has been slipping. So can RIM reverse course, and again viably compete in the smartphone wars? 

Maybe. In a conference call with reporters yesterday, Heins, the new RIM CEO, said the company would seek to get back to its roots: devices that appeal to businesspeople, not the lay consumer. "We plan to refocus on the enterprise business and capitalize on our leading position in this segment," Heins said, according to IDG. 

Meanwhile, the company will focus on the release of BlackBerry 10, an operating system formerly known as BBX, which is expected to launch later this year. Details on the new OS are thin, although word is that RIM will begin providing prototypes to developers this spring. (EWeek has published a good run-down on what BlackBerry 10 phones must include if it wishes to compete with Apple and Android. Hint: bigger screens, no physical keyboard.) 

There's only one problem, Eric Zeman notes over at Information Week: RIM may be running out of time. 

"RIM's BB10 smartphones won't reach the market until close to the end of 2012," Zeman writes. "By then, Apple will have fielded the iPhone 5 and Google will have at least unveiled (if not actually released) the next version of Android. Apple and Google are the reason RIM is in its current state. Their touch-screen, media-centric smartphones have won over consumers and business users alike, who've adopted them by the hundreds of millions."

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