Sept. 28, 2012 -- It has become very clear this week that for RIM, which once led the smartphone race, the future hinges on its next release.
At a conference this week and on its earnings call yesterday, the company's executives talked at length about BlackBerry 10, the operating system (or "mobile computing platform" as RIM calls it) , which it will release on new phones in early 2013.
The company was originally supposed to ship the phones before the end of this year and in time for the holiday season, but they were delayed. Yet, RIM has been saying publicly that it does not feel deterred by that and believes it will still upstage the competition.
"It's not like the market is vanishing after this Christmas season," RIM's CMO, Frank Boulben, told ABC News. " We have heard from our carrier partners that the beginning of the calendar year is best suited for launch, after the end of the year frenzy."
This holiday season, however, will be one of the biggest for smartphone releases. Apple has just released the iPhone 5, a slew of new Android phones are coming from Samsung and Motorola, and Nokia and HTC, with the backing of Microsoft, are pushing Windows 8 devices very hard.
As of August, Android and Apple's iOS held 85 percent of the smartphone market, while RIM had less than 5 percent market share. But while RIM has noted the tough competition, it is motivated by its product differentiation.
"When I look at the marketplace today, I see two very big players in the me-too battle. The 'mine is slightly better than yours,' 'you have this, I have that' race. That's not where we want to play," he said. "The paradigm now is click on the app, when you want to do something else, click the home button, and go to another app. That's five years old now. The BlackBerry 10 experience is completely different and unique."
As RIM demonstrated this week, BlackBerry 10 has a number of new multitasking features, including one called Peek, which lets you switch apps by swiping from the side of the screen. Boulben said in his conversation with ABC News that BlackBerry 10 is a mobile computing platform, one that will make its way to other devices, including tablets and beyond, in 2013.
But on the phone front, it is also putting a big focus on something that has allowed RIM to stand out for years: the keyboard.
"Whether you are using our all-touch product or our physical keyboard device, you will have the best keyboard, period," Boulben said. RIM will release two phones with BlackBerry 10 at launch, one that is entirely touchscreen and one with a physical QWERTY keyboard and a large screen. The touchscreen keyboard, RIM says, will be the best on the market.
"It learns your ways of constructing sentences, it learns words, and it adapts," he said. In that respect, just, perhaps, RIM too will successfully be able to adapt in a changing world.