TORONTO — The maker of the BlackBerry smartphone is promising a speedier device, a superb typing experience and the ability to keep work and personal identities separate on the same phone. It’s the fruit of a crucial, long-overdue makeover for the Canadian company.
Thorsten Heins, chief executive of Research In Motion Ltd., will show off the first phone with the new BlackBerry 10 system in New York on Wednesday. A marketing campaign that includes a Super Bowl ad will accompany the long-anticipated debut. Repeated delays have left the once-pioneering BlackBerry an afterthought in the shadow of Apple’s trend-setting iPhone and Google’s Android-driven devices.
Now, there’s some optimism. Previews of the software have gotten favorable reviews on blogs. Financial analysts are starting to see some slight room for a comeback. RIM’s stock has nearly tripled to $16.18 from a nine-year low in September, though it’s still nearly 90 percent below its 2008 peak of $147. Most analysts consider a BlackBerry 10 success to be crucial for the company’s long-term viability. “The old models are becoming obsolete quickly,” BGC Financial analyst Colin Gillis said. “There is still a big user base, but it’s going to rotate off. The question is: Where do they rotate to?”
The BlackBerry, pioneered in 1999, has been the dominant smartphone for on-the-go business people. The BlackBerry began to cross over to consumers. But when the iPhone came out in 2007, it showed that phones can do much more than email and make phone calls. They can play games, music and movies. Android came along to offer even more choices. Suddenly, the BlackBerry looked ancient.
RIM promised a new system to catch up, using technology it got through its 2010 purchase of QNX Software Systems. Although executives have been providing a glimpse at some of BlackBerry 10’s new features for months, Heins will finally showcase a complete system at Wednesday’s event. Devices will go on sale soon after that. Prices have not yet been announced.