After years of Apple and Google grabbing its smartphone market share, BlackBerry today launched a version of its phones that it hopes will bring it back. At an event in New York City, BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins, not only announced the much-delayed BlackBerry 10, the new phone software the company has been working on for the past two years, but that RIM would now officially be called BlackBerry. On Monday, Feb. 4 it will be changing its stock ticker symbol to BBRY.
"We have been on a journey of transformation, to transform our business and our brand, but also one that will transform mobile communications to true mobile computing," Heins said on stage. "Saying we have reinvented this company is simply not enough. Today is a new day in the history of BlackBerry."
BlackBerry 10's New Features
BlackBerry 10 is a completely new version of the BlackBerry software; it doesn't share a line of code with the previous version called BlackBerry 7 and was built completely for the touchscreen. While the operating system is similar to that of the iPhone or Android, as it is built around pages of apps, BlackBerry says the other platforms are now outdated and that the BlackBerry 10 will provide "differentiating" features.
"It's a change in smartphone experience -- the dominant paradigm, introduced six years ago, was great and revolutionary at the time," BlackBerry's Chief Marketing Officer Frank Boulben told ABC News in an interview. "But six years is a long time for a technology cycle, with a new user experience with a clear focus we have the opportunity to take market share back."
Its BlackBerry Z10 phone doesn't have a physical keyboard, but it has a software keyboard that BlackBerry has put a lot of time and effort into crafting. The software keyboard predicts words as you are typing, and you can swipe words into the keyboard. There is also the Hub, which brings in all your messages -- email, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn -- into a universal inbox. You can swipe up and left to get to the Hub from any screen. In fact, the entire operating system is built around swiping; there's no back button or physical home button.
BlackBerry also discussed a feature called BlackBerry Balance, which allows you to create different areas of the phone for work and your personal life. Additionally, it's new BlackBerry Messenger will have voice and video chatting functionality, allowing users a way around using their minutes.
BlackBerry World and Apps
But Heins spent much of the presentation focusing on the big question people have had for the new software: How will it have the apps that have become so popular on the iPhone and Android phones?
"We will be the platform launching with the highest number of apps on day one," Boulben said. The company has worked with software developers to stock its BlackBerry World store, which includes apps and music and movies, to have 70,000 apps out of the gate. RIM announced that popular apps like Facebook, Skype, Kindle, Twitter, Angry Birds, Evernote, Rdio, ESPN Scorecenter, Flixter and Cut the Rope will be in the store for consumers.
Analysts were impressed by the selection of apps but say BlackBerry has to keep up the momentum. "It appears the table stakes apps and services are there for most users," Michael Gartenberg, Gartner Research director, told ABC News. "The key will be for BlackBerry to keep up the momentum in terms of execution and perception."
The BlackBerry Z10 and Q10
BlackBerry 10 will first launch on the BlackBerry Z10 smartphone. The phone has a 4.2-inch screen, a dual-core processor, 2GB of RAM and an 8-megapixel camera on the back and a 2-megapixel camera on the front for video chatting. You can read our full review of the phone here.
The BlackBerry Z10 will be available in Canada on Feb. 5 and in the U.K. early next month. In the U.S. it will be available in March. AT&T and Verizon have said they will carry one of the first phones with BlackBerry 10. According to RIM, the Z10 will be sold for a suggested retail price of $199 with a two-year contract; an unlocked version will be sold for $599.