TORONTO ó Research In Motion said Monday that it will hold an official launch event for its new BlackBerry 10 smartphones on Jan. 30. The new phones are seen as critical to RIMís 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.
RIMís 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.
Jefferies analyst Peter Misek called it a make-or-break product release and said the date of the launch event suggests a release date in mid- to late February or in March.
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 wonít be dead on arrival as some analysts have said because RIM hasnít lost the corporate market completely.
ďIs 10 going to be the solution to retain that marketplace? Weíll have to wait and see,Ē Gillis said. ďItís great they set a date, but the challenges are still formidable. Itís not an issue of initial demand. Itís an issue of sustained demand.Ē
Gillis noted that RIMís launch of a tablet initially went OK but then demand fell sharply. RIMís tablet, the Playbook, uses software on which the BlackBerry 10 will be based.
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 wasnít realistic. Heins says he can turn things around with BlackBerry 10.
The new BlackBerrys will be released after the holiday shopping season and well after Appleís launch of the iPhone 5, expected to be Appleís biggest product introduction yet.
RIMís 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 $1 billion.
RIM was once Canadaís most valuable company with a market value of more than $80 billion in 2008, but the stock has plummeted since, from over $140 per share to around $8. Its decline evokes memories of Nortel, another former Canadian tech giant, which declared bankruptcy in 2009.
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