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BlackBerry plugs Alicia Keys to be its Creative Director; UK launch is today; Canada, Feb.; U.S. in March

At a live launch event simultaneously held in New York, Toronto, London, Paris, Dubai, Johannesburg, Jakarta and Delhi Waterloo, Ontario-based Research in Motion, Ltd. (TSE:BB; TSE:RIM) loaded its bullets into the chamber in what may be its final bid to remain an elite smartphone maker.

I. RIM is Dead, BlackBerry Lives On

CEO Thorsten Heins took the stage as the event kicked off cheering, "Innovation is at the heart of RIM.  Finally here we are!  We absolutely knew [BB10] was risky.   [It] took heartfelt and...brutal honesty, [buit] we have transformed ourselves inside and out, we have defined our vision.  We have reinvented this company and want to reflect this in our brand."

In an early surprise RIM announced that it was ditching its name (RIM) and changing its ticker symbol to unify the brand and company name under a single word -- BlackBerry.

RIM is changing its ticker symbol on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSE) to "BB".  The new ticker symbol is not yet active, but will be swapped in, in coming days.

The veteran phonemaker, who was building the smartphone industry long before Apple, Inc. (AAPL) iPhones and Google Inc. (GOOG) Androids came along, today accounts for only about 1 out of every 20 smartphones sold worldwide.  But there has been tremendous interest in BlackBerry 10 (BB10), and the name change bombshell was just the start of the show.

II. Meet the Q10, Z10

RIM announced a pair of BB10 devices at the event.

The first, the Z10, is a full-touch model.  It packs a 4.2-inch screen, and 356 PPI resolution.  Available in black and white color selections, the handset features a modern stylized backplate.  

BlackBerry Z10

The second phone, the Q10 is the rumored keyboard-equipped BB10 handset.  It features a 3.1-inch screen

BlackBerry Q10

RIM -- err... BlackBerry -- also showcased features of the new OS.  The first demo involved BlackBerry Flow, BB10's answer to real-time multi-tasking.  In the demo apps were swapped in an out quickly, with smooth animations.  

A new BlackBerry Hub was also demoed, which aggregates email, Facebook, Inc. (FB), LinkedIn Corp. (LNKD), and BBM messages.  You can peek at the BB Hub using either a notification LED or a swipeable drop-down.  The Hub aggregates meetings and events from all the various platforms into a single centralized location.

Mr. Heins explains, "We have the aspiration to be the best keyboard experience period."

RIM's new keyboard features some interest features to allow for faster email/message composition.  For example there's multi-language word-prediction, which allows you to swipe words upwards to add them.  And you can swipe down to access the number pad, rather than having to click a virtual button (although a virtual button is also available).

III. New Core Apps Spice Things up for BlackBerry Brand

Given its business-heavy clientelle, perhaps the most important new feature in the QNX-based operating system is BlackBerry balanced, which allows the phone to operate in two distinct states; work mode and home mode.  The goal is to allow users to carry one device that serves both as their personal device, and their work device, while separating those roles to prevent distraction from either purpose.

In work mode you get an entirely different app store from in home mode, with a different selection of apps, which can be customized by your employer.  Work apps are noted by a little briefcase on their icon.  They have set storage limits.

BB10 Work
RIM Let's you easily switch between work and home profiles. [Image Source: AnandTech]

BlackBerry Messenger, which boasts 60 million users worldwide now supports video calling.  The look of it is similar to FaceTime (on the iPhone), Google Talk on Android, or Skype on Windows Phone.

Another interesting feature is BlackBerry Screen Share, which allows you to stream the contents of your camera and/or screen to a remote viewer either on a computer or smartphone.  Thus you can flip through presentations, do a guided tour of websites, or other interesting applications.  The Screen Share is built into the BBM Video Chat app.

Another key core app is BlackBerry Remember.  Remember allows you to save Evernote notes, emails, tasks, attachments, photos, videos, URLs to reminders, in a catch-all grab-bag to remind you of important things you need to do.

BlackBerry has beefed up the camera app a bit, too with dragable focus.  The photography app also features built in filters (similar to Instagram or the endless alternatives) and basic photo editing tools.

Another cool core app is BlackBerry Story Maker, which allows you to create video presentations, complete with titles, background music, and credits.

IV. Availability Announced; No U.S. BB10s Until March

BlackBerry is aiming for BlackBerry World, its new app store, to be a one-stop location for both apps and media, much like Apple's iTunes or Google's Play store.  The new store will feature content from "all major record labels and independents", and video content from every major television network.  

The app side of the store will feature famous titles, such as Angry Birds peppered among a catalog of 70K apps.  Multiple apps can be installed simultaneously, without the need for reboots (an annoyance in past BlackBerry operating systems).

BlackBerry World
BlackBerry World will feature media and apps.

The UK gets the Z10 first, with the device launching today.  Canadian carriers will also get their hands on the Z10 early, with a Feb. 5 launch.  The Z10 will be priced at $149 in Canada on a three-year contract.  Carriers in the United Arab Emirates, an affluent BlackBerry haven, will get it Feb. 10.

Pre-orders in the U.S. are starting now, but the physical Z10 launch won't be until March on various U.S. carriers.  Every major carrier in the U.S. (Verizon Communications Inc.'s (VZ) and Vodafone Group Plc.'s (LON:VOD) Verizon Wireless, AT&T Inc. (T), Sprint Nextel Corp. (S), and T-Mobile USA) will carry a BlackBerry device this spring.  re-based "Classic" plans, as well.

Verizon Banner
AT&T glass
T-Mobile wide
Every major U.S. Carrier will carry the BB10.

It thus appears the analysts who predicted that the platform's launch would be delayed to March were partially right.

V. BB Plugs Alicia Keys as its Celebrity Endorser

Much like Intel Corp. (INTC), BlackBerry offered up an interesting token celebrity appointment at the end of its show.  It announced that pop star Alicia Keys would be its new "Global Creative Director".  She told the crowd, "[I used to be a BlackBerry user, but I left it for something that] had a little more bling."

Alecia Keys
[Image Source: CrackBerry]

Now Ms. Keys is back in the fold.

In addition to her music career, Ms. Keys will now be in charge of coordinating retailers, designers, carriers, and developers.  She will also be expected to keep BlackBerry in the loop with the entertainment industry.

But BlackBerry wasn't done with celebrity endorsers.  It also showed off its so-called "BB Keep Moving project", which featured world-famous athletes and filmmakers submitting fan-created films.

In all, the event seemed to fire on all cylinders -- it certainly was more consistent than the Windows Phone 8 launch event, which featured some highs and lows.  And it was relatively succinct.  Now all that remains to be seen is how the market reacts.

Sources: CrackBerry, AnandTech

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That's messed up
By FreeTard on 1/30/2013 11:55:25 AM , Rating: 5
So now where do I go to get a RIM job?

RE: That's messed up
By GulWestfale on 1/30/2013 12:04:50 PM , Rating: 5
any apple store.

RE: That's messed up
By Motoman on 1/30/2013 12:31:22 PM , Rating: 5
No, I think that's where you go to *give* a rim job...

RE: That's messed up
By Cheesew1z69 on 1/30/13, Rating: 0
RE: That's messed up
By Pirks on 1/30/2013 1:19:00 PM , Rating: 3
No, they usually boast about Apple's profits (Tony) and app quality/quantity (Takin). They are not like macdevdude, you know.

RE: That's messed up
By lexluthermiester on 2/11/2013 6:50:55 PM , Rating: 2
NICE!! And so true... The last time I was in NYC, I went into the Apple store and good grief! Can you say extreme butt kissing? If I where at a club I'd think she was trying to get jump my bones!...

RE: That's messed up
By lexluthermiester on 2/11/2013 7:30:31 PM , Rating: 2
I was going to say "get in my pants" but decided on the "jump my bone" thing... LOL

RE: That's messed up
By Jeffk464 on 1/30/2013 6:48:49 PM , Rating: 2
I don't think putting out a great OS matters anymore. iOS and android have established themselves as dominant. MS now has a great OS for windows phone and they can't even get any market share. Ubuntu and mozilla are going to be releasing mobile OS's there just isn't room for all of them.

PS I love the idea of Ubuntu mobile but think its also doomed to failure.

RE: That's messed up
By lexluthermiester on 2/11/2013 7:15:41 PM , Rating: 2
MS now has a great OS for windows phone

Really? Windows phone is a failure, because it is a pain to use[IE cumbersome], visually unappealing and worse than iOS were restrictions are concerned. Android is the best and most flexible mobile OS available.

Ubuntu and mozilla are going to be releasing mobile OS's there just isn't room for all of them. PS I love the idea of Ubuntu mobile but think its also doomed to failure.

"Failure" is term that is highly subjective and requires validating reasoning. MS wants Windows Phone to dominate the market. Not likely going to happen. Ubuntu wants to make a presence in the market and give people an alternative. This is very much the same premise for their desktop PC and tablet efforts. And in that capacity, they have achieved great success! They will likely do the same in the phone arena. Mozilla with the Firefox OS for phones is aiming at the same goal. And if either make a rom for my phone[Galaxy S Relay], I'll be trying them out and even sticking with them if they work well. So one can hardly doom them to failure based their respective goal sets.

By Tony Swash on 1/31/2013 12:56:42 PM , Rating: 2
By retrospooty on 1/31/2013 2:11:06 PM , Rating: 3
Uh oh... 3 separate posts by Tony... This must mean you see Blackberry as a potential threat. Otherwise no reason to FUD them down eh?

By Pirks on 1/31/2013 3:30:09 PM , Rating: 2
yeah man you don't say, tony trolling rim is a new sight, I didn't expect it from him at all, you or micktroll is normal but not him. this is weird, agreed.

By retrospooty on 1/31/2013 3:49:42 PM , Rating: 2
LOL... but you gotta admit that PR interview he linked is funny. Poor guy was totally uncoached for what to say in the event he was asked about Apple.

By Pirks on 1/31/2013 4:11:06 PM , Rating: 2
yep that was a good post from Tony, BB guy was totally pwned by BBC, I laughed too :) PR people in BB are quite bad, unfortunately. robots indeed

Long live the keyboard
By edge929 on 1/30/2013 11:57:29 AM , Rating: 2
Looks like I'll be getting a Q10 when my current 9930 is due for a scheduled upgrade. Very glad RIM (BB) didn't scrap it completely. I type on much larger touch devices every day but nothing beats the speed of a physical keyboard even as small as BB's.

RE: Long live the keyboard
By Sazabi19 on 1/30/2013 12:17:05 PM , Rating: 2
Ever hear of Swype?

RE: Long live the keyboard
By Motoman on 1/30/13, Rating: 0
RE: Long live the keyboard
By mousewiz on 1/30/2013 3:01:17 PM , Rating: 2
Eh, I've had two androids with sliding keyboards in the past. I recently switched to a BB because the carrier I switched to didn't have any decent androids with slide keyboards.

For reading PDFs, I miss the extra screen size for sure. For everything else, the BB is about 10xs easier to use with one hand, and I consider that a big bonus.

That said, I'm not seeing the touch cursor on their keyboarded phone... that hurts. I can reach anywhere on the screen with my thumb, but not as accurately as I'd like to be able to. If I stick with them, I'll probably find myself using two hands much more often than I currently do =(

RE: Long live the keyboard
By augiem on 1/30/2013 3:13:32 PM , Rating: 2
I actually prefer the smaller keyboard layout. Something about the rectangular sliders with ultra flat square keys just slows me down.

RE: Long live the keyboard
By Motoman on 1/30/2013 6:26:43 PM , Rating: 2
There are definitely bad ones. The original Droid had a terrible keyboard...the keys were just flat all the way across, perfectly square, and with no gaps in-between. Very hard to use. I think the best full-size keyboard I ever had was on the orignial LG Envy. It even had a d-pad kind of thing on one side that probably would have been passable as a game controller. Smaller keys, raised up, with large gaps in between.

This made me laugh
By Tony Swash on 1/30/2013 1:50:28 PM , Rating: 1
Blackberry PR robot meets BBC interviewer.

RE: This made me laugh
By Cheesew1z69 on 1/30/13, Rating: 0
RE: This made me laugh
By Tony Swash on 1/30/2013 6:00:08 PM , Rating: 2
Saw this and thought of you.....

RE: This made me laugh
By Cheesew1z69 on 1/30/2013 6:15:57 PM , Rating: 1
Of course you did, more useless bullshit as usual.

RE: This made me laugh
By StormyKnight on 1/31/2013 2:20:47 AM , Rating: 2
Dilbert = End users

Bearded Software Engineer = Apple

By Dr. Kenneth Noisewater on 1/30/2013 11:22:23 AM , Rating: 1
Sure seems that BB could win by being the first to ship with this:

Given how much they stress keyboards and such..

RE: Haptics/raised bumps on touchscreen model
By Nortel on 1/30/2013 11:59:29 AM , Rating: 2
Have you actually seen the reviews on the "bumpy screen"? Everything I've read showed people actually typing slower on the bumpy keys vs flat. To add to that death blow, the bumpy parts take awhile to rise and fall and durability is seriously in question.

By Motoman on 1/30/2013 12:36:45 PM , Rating: 2
"Tactile response" was never the issue with on-screen keyboards vs. real keyboards...but the manufacturers have been forced to pretend it is, because it's the only thing they can do anything about. The bump thing is just another evolution of this, but it's just a gimmick.

None of those tricks make up for the lack of a real keyboard with real, individual, well-separated keys.

Name change
By augiem on 1/30/2013 2:26:57 PM , Rating: 3
Thank god they changed their name to BlackBerry so now Jason can't use that pic of the flaming Hindenberg with RIM plastered the side anymore! o_-

RE: Name change
By Belard on 2/1/2013 1:03:31 AM , Rating: 2
Why? Its a funny picture...

Gee, how hard would it be to change the name to Blackberry?

I gather that RIM renamed themselves because of the 3 years of negative products. No more RIM-JOB jokes.

By ERROR666 on 1/30/2013 1:51:21 PM , Rating: 2
their new devices look ok, but I still have no idea why would anybody want to switch to a different platform. I mean, I have a ton of stuff already integrated with google and working perfectly fine. Why would I even consider the new bb?
I think they're a couple years late.

By augiem on 1/30/2013 2:35:07 PM , Rating: 2
For someone who isn't married to an ecosystem (like me), or better yet someone still using a feature phone (and there are billions), its great to have another option. For my next smartphone purchase, I'll definitely be considering every OS option. There are things that irk me about each Windows, iOS, and Android, so I'll be glad to evaluate a new one and see how it fits into the scheme of things. As far as apps and such, as long as the few major ones are cross-platform or at least a similarly functioning app exists, I don't have any problem switching around at whim.

finally a simple and decent multitasking phone
By Urbanos on 1/31/2013 8:59:03 AM , Rating: 2
i have to say, the way they are offering the multitasking or at least the impression of multitasking looks great. i can't wait to try it.
in this case, they are truly ahead of the game. its kind of out on other phones but not as quick and easy.

By Cheesew1z69 on 1/31/2013 9:18:08 AM , Rating: 2
This doesn't sound good
By Tony Swash on 1/31/2013 12:38:33 PM , Rating: 2
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