(The Canadian Press) NEW YORK, N.Y. – Research in Motion Ltd. (TSX: T.RIM, Stock Forum) (NASDAQ: RIMM, Stock Forum) launched two new Blackberry smartphones Wednesday, hoping that they will prove to be the game changer that revives the company's fortunes.
The BlackBerry Z10 touchscreen model will be available in Canada next Tuesday.
The BlackBerry Q10, which will have a physical keyboard, will follow at a later date — a move that was signalled last year by the company,
The new BlackBerry models are widely seen as a make-or-break product for the company formerly known as Research In Motion, which closed at $13.86 on Wednesday, down 12%, leaving the company with a market cap of $7.26 billion, based on 524.2 million shares outstanding. The 52-week range is $18.49 and $6.10.
The announcements were made today at a splashy event in New York City, where the company also said it’s changing its corporate name to BlackBerry, the moniker of its globally recognized smartphones.
Singer songwriter Alicia Keys is joining RIM as global creative director, the company said in a press release.
The BlackBerry 10 devices were originally due for release last year.
Chief executive Thorsten Heins took to the stage at Pier 36, a massive entertainment venue on the shores of the East River, to unveil the two phones. Both are powered by the new BB10 operating system.
“We heard you loud and clear,” Heins told the audience. “We built this for those people who said they just had to have the physical keyboard typing experience.”
Heins called the event a “new day in the history of BlackBerry.”
The new phone launch is BlackBerry’s attempt to regain its position in the highly competitive North American and European smartphone markets, which are now dominated by iPhone and Android devices.
While the first hurdles to overcome are the opinions of tech analysts and investor reaction, the true measure of success — actual sales of the phones — is still weeks away.
The event will also likely include release dates for the phones, expected in the next four to six weeks, and how much they will cost.
Among the features being touted at Wednesday’s event:
— As you type, the operating system predicts what word you want and you can swipe to have it auto-completed.
— BlackBerry Hub acts as one place for all incoming messages, email, BBM, social media.
— BlackBerry Balance then allows one phone to operate as both a business and personal device entirely separate from each other.
— Apps have been divided into two sections by tabs at the top of the screen, labelled Personal and Work.
— The new BlackBerry will also let users seamlessly shift between the phone’s applications like they’re flipping between pages on a desk.
The company has said the new BlackBerry will be released first in a touchscreen version, while a keypad alternative will follow in the weeks or months afterward.
RIM shares had gained as much as four per cent ahead of the launch. But the stock later fell more than three per cent, down 60 cents to $15.11 on the TSX following the start of the presentation.
The stock had declined over the past two sessions — 3.4 per cent Tuesday and a 7.6 per cent drop on Monday.
But that was viewed merely as profit taking as the stock has staged a huge comeback since hitting a fresh 52-week low of $6.10 last September. As of last Friday, RIM’s share price had soared 50 per cent during January alone.
The BlackBerry has dramatically lost marketshare in recent years after a series of blunders.
Several network outages left customers without the use of the smartphones they had come to rely on, while the BlackBerry’s hardware hasn’t received a significant upgrade in years.
In the coming weeks, BlackBerry will launch an advertising blitz to promote the phones, including aggressive social media campaigning, which includes plugs from celebrities on their Twitter accounts, and a 30-second advertisement on the Super Bowl, the most watched television program of the year.