Story first appeared on USA Today
Research In Motion is no more.
RIM, the struggling Canadian phone maker that introduced the world to the notion of 24-hour work e-mail, hit the reset button on its identity and operation Wednesday by overhauling its product lineup and changing the name to its more commonly known brand, BlackBerry.
BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins took the stage in New York and revealed the BlackBerry 10 line, including a new mobile operating system and two new smartphones that are aimed at competing with Apple's iPhone and other high-end devices that run on the Android or Windows operating systems. BlackBerry Z10 is a 4.2-inch touch-screen smartphone, while Q10 comes with a physical keyboard that BlackBerry loyalists are reluctant to give up.
The new products are the result of a company resuscitation strategy undertaken by Heins, who was hired about a year ago, to ensure its viability. With bearish investors fearing that it may not survive, its stock has plummeted 74% since the beginning of 2011.
"We have definitely been on a journey of transformation," Heins said. "I know innovation is at the heart of RIM."
In changing its name to BlackBerry — a long overdue move, as most already associate RIM with the catchy brand name — the company will change its stock ticker symbol from "RIMM" to "BBRY" on Monday.
BlackBerry 10, which now becomes the fourth major mobile operating system in the U.S., has features that are familiar to users of Android and Apple's iOS, including icon tiles for apps.
But it also introduces an array of unique tools. BlackBerry Hub is the central interface for receiving all types of messages, including e-mail, Facebook updates and Twitter messages. BlackBerry Peek is a feature that allows users to swipe the screen to quickly check e-mail or social media while watching a video.
BlackBerry Balance lets businesses keep work data separate and secure from home data. BlackBerry Remember is a series of folders for managing content. BlackBerry Story Maker is for combining photos and video to create personalized films.
BlackBerry will have to hustle to catch up to competitors in content. BlackBerry World, its content store, currently hosts 70,000 apps vs. hundreds of thousands in both iOS and Android. The company pointed out that many popular apps are now available or coming soon, including Skype, MLB, Dropbox, Angry Birds Star Wars and Where's My Water?
Heins says all eight major studios and major music labels have signed on to add music and video to BlackBerry World.
"They delivered on the promises that Heins made," says Gartner analyst Michael Gartenberg. "There's more than enough here for consumers to be satisfied. They have to continue that momentum and overcome the perception that there might be an app missing."
Z10 will be available on three major U.S. wireless carriers — AT&T, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile — starting next month.
Only Sprint has committed to selling the Q10 so far. BlackBerry said the model will be available in April. The decision to add a keyboard to Q10 — with a 3.1-inch AMOLED touch-screen display — was driven largely by consumer reaction. "We heard you loud and clear," Heins said. "We built this for all those people (who) said we just have to have a physical keyboarding experience."
To enhance its hip quotient, BlackBerry also named singer Alicia Keys as its global creative director. "We're exclusively dating again, and I'm very happy," she said.