Technology: BlackBerry makes last-ditch attempt to take on Apple as it unveils its challenger to iPhone: New touchscreen devices aimed at personal users Speculation of takeover by Chinese PC giant Lenovo
(Guardian (UK) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) BlackBerry maker Research In Motion has been renamed after its most famous product and launched its first true computer phone in a bid to secure its future .
Amid suggestions it could be a takeover target for rising Chinese PC manufacturer Lenovo, the Canadian company now known as BlackBerry will release its answer to Apple's iPhone in the UK today. Chief executive Thorsten Heins vowed BlackBerry would "lead the move to mobile computing".
In an attempt to turn the tide on the technology revolution that is threatening his company with oblivion, Heins unveiled a pure touchscreen device with no physical keyboard and the new software interface on which they run. Called BB10, the platform was originally announced in October 2010 but suffered from repeated delays. During that time, BlackBerry's market share collapsed, from 20% three years ago to 3.4% in December, according to researcher Strategy Analytics. More than 90% of smartphones run on either Apple or Android software.
"Today is not the finish line, it's the starting line," said Heins. "We've seen the industry move from narrow band to broadband, from analogue to digital, and now at RIM we intend to lead the move from mobile communications to mobile computing. "
The company's shares fell 5% to $15 while he spoke, although progress towards the arrival of BB10 and speculation over a buyout by Lenovo has seen the stock recover from just above $6 in September.
Sales of personal computers dipped last year for the first time since the dotcom crash, and Lenovo is keen to secure its future by moving into mobile phones, which are replacing computers to connect to the internet. BlackBerry's emblematic handset, the keyboard-less Z10, will make its debut in the UK before launching in Canada and other leading markets next month and in the United States in March. It will work on every UK 4G service. The second BB10 handset, the Q10, which comes with a keyboard and a touchscreen will be launched later. Crucially, BB10 will have 70,000 apps redesigned to work on the platform. Many popular ones such as Skype, Rovio's Angry Birds, Facebook, Twitter and even WhatsApp, the rival messenger service to BlackBerry's BBM, are all included.
The reviews from industry watchers were cautious. "Despite a well-designed Blackberry 10 platform, that will attract short-term interest from existing users the company will struggle to appeal to a wider audience and in the long-term will become a niche player in the smartphone market," said Adam Leach at market researcher Ovum.
BB10 faces a double challenge - appealing to consumers who bring their devices to work and persuading businesses to invest by upgrading their IT systems.
The company's Business Enterprise Server arm is popular with banks and government departments because it offers secure email by carrying traffic on a network of servers it has built.
BB10's aim is to do away with the "two phones" problem, where customers carry a BlackBerry for work purposes and an Apple or Android phone for private use. "We are expecting quite a lot of large corporates to buy small numbers of BB10 devices, get them up and test them," said European managing director Stephen Bates. "We see that as a slow burn."
Initially, BlackBerry is hoping the bulk of its sales will be to consumers buying their own devices. "We are expecting that market to be very strong."
Thorsten Heins, BlackBerry chief unveils a new operating system and two handsets Photograph: Timothy Clary/AFP/Getty
(c) 2013 Guardian Newspapers Limited.
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