BlackBerry 10 release date set for January 30
Research In Motion said Monday that it will hold an official launch event for its new BlackBerry 10 smartphones on January 30. The new phones are seen as critical to RIM's survival.
The Waterloo, Ontario-based company said Monday details on the much-delayed smartphones and their availability will be announced at the event.
The announcement comes as the company struggles in North America to hold onto customers who are abandoning BlackBerrys for flashier iPhones and Android phones.
RIM's current software is still focused on email and messaging, and is less user-friendly, agile and robust than iPhone or Android.
Its attempt at touch screens was a flop, and it lacks the apps that power other smartphones. RIM is hanging its hopes on the BlackBerry 10 software.
It is thoroughly redesigned for the touchscreen, Internet browsing and apps experience that customers now expect.
The Canadian company said the launch event will happen simultaneously in multiple countries.
A full touchscreen device is expected to be released first followed shortly after by a physical keyboard version.
BGC Financial Partners analyst Colin Gillis said the new phones won't be dead on arrival as some analysts have said because RIM hasn't lost the corporate market completely.
"Is 10 going to be the solution to retain that marketplace? We'll have to wait and see," Gillis said. "It's great they set a date, but the challenges are still formidable. It's not an issue of initial demand. It's an issue of sustained demand."
Gillis noted that RIM's launch of a tablet initially went okay but then demand fell sharply. RIM's tablet, the Playbook, uses software on which the BlackBerry 10 will be based.
BEING TESTED WORLDWIDE
RIM said last month the new BlackBerrys are being tested by 50 wireless carriers around the world.
Thorsten Heins, who took over as CEO in January after the company lost tens of billions in market value, had vowed to do everything he could to release BlackBerry 10 this year but said in June that the timetable wasn't realistic. Heins says he can turn things around with BlackBerry 10.
RIM's platform transition is also happening under a new management team and as RIM lays off 5,000 employees as part of a bid to save US$1 billion.
RIM was once Canada's most valuable company with a market value of more than US$80 billion in 2008, but the stock has plummeted since, from over US$140 per share to around US$8.
Shares of RIM closed at US$8.81 Monday in New York.