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, 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?''
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. The exact date and prices are expected Wednesday.
RIM redesigned the system to embrace the multimedia, apps and touch-screen experience prevalent today. “Historically there have been areas that have not been our strongest points,'' Rick Costanzo, RIM's executive vice president of global sales, said in an interview. “Not only have we caught up, but we may even be better than some of the competition now.''
Costanzo said “no one else can touch'' what RIM's new system offers. The new operating system promises better multitasking than either the iPhone or Android. Simply swipe a finger across the phone's display screen to switch to another program. All emails and notifications from such applications as Twitter and Facebook go to the BlackBerry Hub, a nerve center accessible with a finger swipe even if you have another application open. One can peek into it and open an email, or return to the previous application without opening the email.
“You are not going in and out of applications; you're flowing through applications with one