BlackBerry's back with fruits of lengthy redesign
THE maker of the BlackBerry has introduced a re-engineered operating system, two new phones, and a new company name in the hope of reviving its dwindling market share.
Frank Boulben, BlackBerry's chief marketing officer, said the smartphone market was currently a duopoly between to iPhone and Android, but he insisted that "the cards can be redealt".
He said smartphones today were based on a paradigm introduced six years ago, namely the grid of app icons and home button for users to dip in and out of applications.
"We are not selling a me-too product; what we are selling is a unique and differentiated proposition," Mr Boulben said.
But despite mostly positive reviews, the new models failed to excite investors, with the company's share price dropping 10 per cent in late afternoon trading. It is still trading at more than double its September nine-year low, however.
While the Z10 is aesthetically similar to the iPhone 5, the new phones feature a redesigned user interface that does away with home, back and search buttons and instead allows users to flow seamlessly between apps using simple swipe gestures.
The BlackBerry 10 series also offers several unique features such as tight social media integration and seamless switching between personal and work profiles.
At the BlackBerry announcement in New York on Thursday morning, the Canadian company also announced it was ditching the brand name Research in Motion for a single term, BlackBerry.
Pricing and availability in Australia have yet to be announced. But Telstra and Optus have confirmed they will offer the Z10 here.
In the US, the Z10 will be available in March, while BlackBerry's Q10 is expected to arrive in April. BlackBerry said Australian availability would be "in line" with the US.
Between 70,000 and 100,000 apps will be available at launch on BlackBerry World — including Skype, Amazon Kindle, WhatsApp and Angry Birds — which executives said was "more apps at launch than any first generation platform".
BlackBerry CEO and president Thorsten Heins, speaking a year after he took the reins of the company, said BlackBerry had gone through a "journey of transformation" that was the most challenging yet exhilarating year of his career.
"Two years ago we had to make a very serious decision, adopt someone else's platform or build a whole new one," he said.
"We made the tough call to go it alone . . . we have transformed ourselves inside and out."
That call meant the new BlackBerry devices were delayed for over a year as competitors such as Samsung adopted Google's Android platform and gobbled up a huge chunk of market share. Mr Heins described the screen on the Z10 as offering a "cinematic experience", while the physical keyboard on the Q10 was the "best typing experience in the industry, period".
On the software side, BlackBerry's 10 series is tightly integrated with social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, and offers a unified inbox called BlackBerry Hub that contains all of the user's messages and notifications.
The reporter travelled to New York as a guest of BlackBerry.