After lengthy delays, Research In Motion Ltd. has unveiled its first two phones with the new BlackBerry 10 system. The Q10 will have a physical keyboard, while the Z10 has only a touch-screen keyboard. RIM says it will also change its name to BlackBerry to maintain a single brand. It will have the ticker symbol "BBRY" on the Nasdaq Stock Market.
RIM redesigned the system to embrace the multimedia, apps and touch-screen experience prevalent today. The question is whether there's time for the once-pioneering BlackBerry to catch up to Apple's trend-setting iPhone and devices running Google's Android system.
RIM CEO Thorsten Heins hosted the main event in New York on Wednesday. Video of his appearance was shown at other RIM events in Toronto, London, Paris, Dubai, Johannesburg, New Delhi and Jakarta, Indonesia.
RIM initially said BlackBerry 10 would come by early 2012, but then the company changed that to late 2012. A few months later, that date was pushed further, to early 2013, missing the lucrative holiday season. The holdup helped wipe out more than $70 billion in shareholder wealth and 5,000 jobs.
RIM had shown off prototypes and previews before. Wednesday's event was the first time RIM showed off a complete product and announced some details on availability.
Most analysts consider a BlackBerry 10 success to be crucial for the company's long-term viability.
RIM is promising a speedier device, a superb typing experience and the ability to keep work and personal identities separate on the same phone. Previews of the BlackBerry 10 software have gotten favorable reviews on blogs. Financial analysts are starting to see some slight room for a comeback. With smartphone sales growing, the BlackBerry 10 can succeed without iPhone and Android users switching.
Regardless of BlackBerry 10's advances, though, the new system will face a key shortcoming: It won't have as many apps written by outside companies and individuals as the iPhone and Android.
Among other highlights:
— The BlackBerry will emphasize typing with one thumb, with gestures and the ability to delete with a thumb swipe anywhere. It will also recognize if you switch languages in the middle of the email, which could be popular in India and other markets where the BlackBerry is still strong.
— The Q10 has a squarish screen measuring 3.1 inches (7.8 centimeters) diagonally. The Z10 will have a 4.2-inch (10.6-centimeter) screen for a cinematic experience. Heins said the back is textured so that it will be comfortable to hold.
— Heins said the Z10—which he's pronouncing "zed-10"—will be out in the U.K. on Thursday, in Canada on Feb. 5 and in the U.S. in March. Prices will vary by carrier, but they will be around $150 with a three-year service contract in Canada. Testing with U.S. carriers is continuing.
He didn't say when the Q10, with the physical keyboard, will be out or for how much.
Explore further: Is big data still big news?