After a few grim years and many delays, Research in Motion has finally revealed the BlackBerry 10 operating system. RIM CEO Thorsten Heins kicked off the BB10 coming-out party Wednesday with a few surprises.
First, RIM ditched its old name and has re-branded the company as simply BlackBerry. Mr. Heins stated at the opening that the name change is a way to have “one consistent brand.”
The past few years have been rough on the Canadian company. According to Forbes, BlackBerry has not turned a profit in the last four quarters. The New York Times reports that BlackBerry has only 2.9 percent of the smart-phone market, down from 20 percent four years ago. The RIMM stock (now BBRY) has crashed almost 90 percent since its peak in 2008. The company's PlayBook tablet never took off quite the way BlackBerry hoped, thousands of jobs were cut, and the company changed CEOs. Skepticism has surrounded BlackBerry for years.
But, with its new name, the company introduced its new look. BlackBerry debuted two new phones at Wednesday's event: the Z10 and Q10.
BlackBerry hopes these two smart phones can bring in users with their many new features, such as the clever time-shifting camera. Time Shift allows consumers to take a photo of a person and then, with their finger, zoom into the subject’s face and shift the dial one seconds backward or forward, until the user finds the perfect look. Other features include screen sharing and free BBM phone calls and video messaging.
One of the biggest challenges that smart-phone companies face is fostering a vibrant app store. The Apple and Android marketplaces each boast 750,000 apps. Heins announced that 70,000 apps would be available on day one for BlackBerry 10 users. That's a great number for a new OS, but the company needs to make up for lost time.
"The new starting line that today represents begins with one consistent brand, a brand that's recognized around the world," said Heins at the announcement. "BlackBerry has changed. And we have re-designed the BlackBerry experience. We have re-engineered our products. We have re-invented this company and we want to reflect this in our brand."
Times writer David Pogue praises BlackBerry’s new features but points out a few flaws. Mr. Pogue writes about the lack of a silent button, the non-rotating calendar, the inability to drag appointments to reschedule them, and a battery that barely makes it through the day. These imperfections are not to discourage the re-named company, he writes.
“So then: Is the delightful BlackBerry Z10 enough to save its company?" he asks. "Honestly? It could go either way. But this much is clear: BlackBerry is no longer an incompetent mess — and its doom is no longer assured.”
“The Z10 and BB10 represent a radical reinvention of the BlackBerry," writes Mossberg. "The hardware is decent and the user interface is logical and generally easy to use. I believe it has a chance of getting RIM back into the game, if the company can attract a lot more apps."
The Z10 will be available in the UK on Thursday, on Feb. 5 for Canada, and an estimated March release for the United States. All four major carriers will carry the newest BlackBerry. It will retail for $199 with a two-year contract.
The Q10 is slated for an April US release.