RIM to release new BlackBerrys soon after Jan. 30 (Update)

Nov 13, 2012 by Rob Gillies
In this Nov. 8, 2011, file photo, a Blackberry employee holds a mobile phone of Blackberry in Berlin. Research In Motion (RIM) made another step towards the release of its new BlackBerry smartphones on Monday, Nov. 12, 2012, announcing that it plans to unveil the devices and its new operating system on Jan. 30. (AP Photo/dapd, Berthold Stadler)

Research In Motion Ltd. will release its much-delayed BlackBerry 10 smartphones "not too long" after a launch event on Jan. 30, a senior executive said Tuesday.

Chief Operating Officer Kristian Tear said the company is still fine-tuning the new phones.

The new phones are seen as critical to RIM's survival as the smartphone pioneer struggles in North America to hold on to customers who are abandoning BlackBerrys for flashier iPhones and Android phones. The new BlackBerry 10 system is designed for the touch screen, Internet browsing and apps experience that customers now expect. RIM's current software is still focused on email and messaging and is less user-friendly, agile and robust than iPhone or Android.

On Monday, RIM said details on the BlackBerry 10, including specific availability, will be announced at the event. A touch-screen-only device is expected to be released first followed shortly after by a version with a physical keyboard. Many people still gravitate to BlackBerrys specifically for their physical keyboards, and RIM hasn't succeeded in the past with touch-only offerings.

Tear said RIM wants to be the No. 1 mobile computing platform, despite the dominance of Apple and Android. He said the Waterloo, Ontario-based company believes it can compete with Silicon Valley because it has access to a lot of talented people and two great universities in the area. He said he's been involved in two turnarounds before with Sony Ericsson and Ericsson and believes in RIM's new management.

"It's not going to be easy," Tear said. "But everybody is super-focused and super-commited. We're going to show the world that we are turning this around."

Steve Zipperstein, RIM's new chief legal officer, said RIM invented the smartphone and has been the innovator in the mobile space for a long time.

"We're not going away," Zipperstein vowed. "We're going to succeed with BB 10. We're going to impress our customers. We're going to fight every day."

Tear and Zipperstein were hired this past summer by CEO Thorsten Heins, who took over RIM in January after it lost tens of billions of dollars in market value. Heins had vowed to do everything he could to release BlackBerry 10 this year but said in June that the timetable wasn't realistic. The new BlackBerrys will be released after the holiday shopping season and well after Apple's September launch of the iPhone 5.

Heins is counting on BlackBerry 10 for a turnaround.

RIM's platform transition is happening under a new management team and as RIM lays off 5,000 employees as part of a bid to save $1 billion this year.

RIM was once Canada's most valuable company with a market value of more than $80 billion in 2008, but the stock has plummeted since, from over $140 per share to around $8. Its decline evokes memories of Nortel, another former Canadian tech giant, which declared bankruptcy in 2009.

RIM's stock fell 41 cents, or 4.7 percent, to close at $8.40 Tuesday in New York after rising as high as $9.07 the previous day, when RIM announced its Jan. 30 launch date.

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