NEW YORK (AP) — After lengthy delays, Research In Motion Ltd. unveiled its first two phones with the new BlackBerry 10 system. The Q10 will have a physical keyboard, while the Z10 has only a touch-screen keyboard. RIM says it will also change its name to BlackBerry to maintain a single brand. It will have the ticker symbol "BBRY" on the Nasdaq Stock Market.
RIM redesigned the BlackBerry system to embrace the multimedia, apps and touch-screen experience prevalent today. The question is whether there's time for the once-pioneering BlackBerry to catch up to Apple's trend-setting iPhone and devices running Google's Android system.
RIM CEO Thorsten Heins hosted the main event in New York. Video of his appearance was shown at other RIM events in Toronto, London, Paris, Dubai, Johannesburg, New Delhi and Jakarta, Indonesia.
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 holiday season. The holdup helped wipe out more than $70 billion in shareholder wealth and 5,000 jobs.
RIM had shown off prototypes and previews before. Wednesday's event was the first time RIM showed off a complete product and announced some details on availability.
Most analysts consider a BlackBerry 10 success to be crucial for the company's long-term viability.
RIM is promising a speedier device, a superb typing experience and the ability to keep work and personal identities separate on the same phone. Previews of the BlackBerry 10 software have gotten favorable reviews on blogs. Financial analysts are starting to see some slight room for a comeback. With smartphone sales growing, the BlackBerry 10 can succeed without iPhone and Android users switching.
Regardless of BlackBerry 10's advances, though, the new system will face a key shortcoming: It won't have as many apps written by outside companies and individuals as the iPhone and Android.
Here's a running account of the BlackBerry 10 event, presented in reverse chronological order. All times are EST. Besides Heins, presenters include Alec Saunders, vice president of developer relations, and Martyn Mallick, vice president of global alliances. Frank Boulben, chief marketing officer, joined in a question-and-answer session with reporters.
Adam Leach, principal analyst at research firm Ovum, calls the new system "well-designed" and says the new phones should appeal to existing BlackBerry users. But he says RIM "will struggle to appeal to a wider audience, and in the long-term will become a niche player in the smartphone market."
Malik Saadi, principal analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media, offers praise for the Z10 and the fact that with the new system, messaging and other services "are always just one gesture away from the user regardless of the other tasks the phone is performing."
But because the user experience is changing, Saadi says, RIM may struggle at first winning over consumers. He adds, "The minimalistic design of the phone means it does not feature the traditional physical 'buttons' users are accustomed to — the home button, the back button and the search button. Instead the phone relies predominantly on soft touch and gesture for navigation."
RIM announces availability in additional markets. Most of Latin America should have it by the end of March. Venezuela is getting it March. 10.
In the U.S., all the major carriers are getting it — AT&T Inc., Verizon Wireless, Sprint Nextel Corp. and T-Mobile USA.
RIM previous announced that it is planning a commercial during the Super Bowl this weekend. Boulben says it's to signal to U.S. customers that the BlackBerry is back.
Although BlackBerry remains popular in many parts of the world, sales have been weak in North America. According to research firm IDC, shipments of BlackBerry phones plummeted from 46 percent of the U.S. market in 2008 to 2 percent in 2012.
RIM plans to continue making the PlayBook tablet despite lackluster sales. The company says it will focus on industries such as finance and health care, where RIM can provide value-added services beyond hardware. An upgrade is planned so that existing PlayBooks will get the new BlackBerry 10 system, too.
So how to pronounce the new Z10? It's being called "zed-10" around the world — but "zee-10" in the U.S.
During a question-and-answer session, RIM executives say that some 1,600 companies have been testing the new system.
There's no firm timeframe on the Q10 model, with the physical keyboard, but Heins says he's hoping it will be ready in April.
As for the Z10, Heins says it will have about one day of battery life, but the battery will be removable so you can add a spare one.
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