* Research In Motion changes company's name to BlackBerry
* Company's hopes for a comeback ride on new BlackBerry 10
* BB10 smartphones loaded with new features, faster browser
* Shares drop about 7 pct after the unveiling
* RIM stages launch parties in cities around the world
By Euan Rocha and Sinead Carew
NEW YORK, Jan 30 Research In Motion Ltd
unveiled the long-delayed line of smartphones it hopes will put
it on the comeback trail on Wednesday but it disappointed
investors by saying U.S. sales of its all-new BlackBerry 10 will
start only in March.
Chief Executive Thorsten Heins also announced that RIM was
abandoning the name it has used since its inception in 1985 to
take the name of its signature product, signaling his hopes for
a fresh start for the company that pioneered on-your-hip email.
"From this point forward, RIM becomes BlackBerry," Heins
said at the New York launch. "It is one brand; it is one
RIM, which is already starting to call itself BlackBerry,
had initially planned to launch the new BlackBerry 10
smartphones in 2011. But it pushed the date back twice as it
struggled to work with a new operating system.
Ahead of Wednesday's announcements, analysts had said that
any launch after February would be a black mark for the Canadian
"The biggest disappointment was the delay in the U.S., that
it will take so long before the devices get going there," said
Eric Jackson, founder and managing Partner at Ironfire Capital
LLC in New York.
Heins said the delays reflected the need for U.S. carrier
testing, although carrier AT&T offered few clues on what
"We are very enthusiastic about the devices. We will
announce pricing, availability, and other information at a later
date. Beyond that, nothing to add," said spokesman Mark Siegel.
RIM launched its first BlackBerry back in 1999 as a way for
busy executives to stay in touch with their clients and their
offices, and the Canadian company quickly cornered the market
for secure corporate and government email.
But its star faded as competition rose. The BlackBerry is
now a far-behind also-ran in the race for market share, with a
3.4 percent global showing in the fourth quarter, down from 20
percent three years before. Its North American market share is
even worse: a mere 2 percent in the fourth quarter.
RIM shares tumbled along with the company's market share,
and the stock is down 90 percent from its 2008 peak.
The shares fell as much as 8 percent on Wednesday, although
they are still more than twice the level of their September 2012
low, reflecting ever-louder buzz about the new devices.
The new BlackBerry 10 phones will compete with Apple's
iPhone and devices using Google's Android
technology, both of which have soared above the BlackBerry in a
The BlackBerry 10 devices boast fast browsers, new features,
smart cameras and, unlike previous BlackBerry models, enter the
market primed with a large application library, including
services such as Skype and the popular game Angry Birds.
The BlackBerry Z10 touchscreen device, in black or white,
will be the first to hit the market, with a country-by-country
roll-out that starts in Britain on Thursday.
A Q10 model, equipped with small "qwerty" keyboard that RIM
made into its trademark, will launch globally in April.
The Z10 device won a lukewarm review from Wall Street
Journal tech blogger Walt Mossberg, who complained of missing or
lagging features and a shortage of apps.
But David Pogue, who writes for The New York Times,
apologized for describing BlackBerry as doomed in the past. The
Z10 touchscreen device was "lovely, fast and efficient,
bristling with fresh, useful ideas," he said.
Announcements about pricing so far have been in line with
expectations. U.S. carrier Verizon Wireless said the
phone would cost $199 for a two-year contract, while Canada's
Rogers Communications is quoting C$149 ($150) for
certain three-year plans.
RIM picked a range of venues for its global launch parties,
including Dubai's $650-a-night Armani Hotel, which occupies six
floors of the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest tower.
The New York event took place in a sprawling basketball
facility on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, just north of the
Manhattan Bridge. The BlackBerry has been "Re-designed.
Re-engineered. Re-invented," RIM said.
RIM, which is splurging on a Superbowl ad to promote its new
phones, also introduced Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Alicia
Keys as its global creative director.
"I was in a long-term relationship with BlackBerry, and then
I started to notice some new, kind of hotter, attractive, sexier
phones at the gym, and I kind of broke up with you for something
that had a little more bling," Keys said at the New York launch.
"But I always missed the way you organized my life, and the
way you were there for me at my job, and so I started to have
two phones - I was kind of playing the field. But then ... you
added a lot more features ... and now, we're exclusively dating
again, and I'm very happy."