REUTERS - Research In Motion Ltd RIMM.O RIM.TO has launched its new line of re-engineered BlackBerry smartphones, taking the wraps off the long-delayed devices at a series of events around the world on Wednesday.
The company used the occasion to announce that it was changing its name to BlackBerry, hoping a new brand identity will polish its tarnished image and help give it a fresh start.
The company, which has steadily lost ground in the hyper-competitive market to Apple Inc’s (AAPL.O) iPhone and devices running Google Inc’s (GOOG.O) Android operating system, is gambling its future on the BlackBerry 10. It sees the new line as make-or-break - its best hope for a comeback in an industry it once dominated.
Here are important milestones in the company’s history:
February 1985 - Mike Lazaridis and Douglas Fregin co-found Research In Motion as an electronics and computer science business based in Waterloo, Ontario, the Canadian university city where Lazaridis studied.
1989 - RIM develops a network gateway later introduced as RIMGate, a predecessor to its BlackBerry Enterprise Server.
1992 - Jim Balsillie joins RIM as co-CEO, mortgaging his house and investing $250,000.
1994 - RIM launches a handheld point-of-sale card reader, which verifies debit and credit transactions directly to a bank.
1995 - RIM builds its own radio modem for wireless email.
1997 - RIM lists on the Toronto Stock Exchange, raising more than $115 million.
January 1999 - RIM launches rebranded BlackBerry email service across North America, offering the first wireless device to synch with corporate email systems. Sales jump 80 percent to $85 million. The next year revenue reaches $221 million.
Late 1999 - The company lists its shares on Nasdaq, raising another $250 million. RIM introduces BlackBerry 850 Wireless Handheld, combining email, wireless data networks and a traditional “Qwerty” keyboard. Demand explodes.
Sept 11, 2001 - People trapped in New York’s World Trade Center use their BlackBerrys to communicate after cellular networks collapse.
November 2001 - NTP sues RIM for patent infringement, the start of a five-year legal tussle. Late in the battle, the U.S. Justice Department says a threatened BlackBerry shutdown would damage the public interest due to the government’s reliance on the system.
2002 - RIM adds voice transmission to the BlackBerry.
2004 - RIM’s subscriber base surpasses 1 million BlackBerry users.
March 2006 - RIM pays $612 million to settle NTP dispute.
January 2007 - Apple Inc’s Steve Jobs unveils first iPhone, and the company launches the BlackBerry competitor in June. Time magazine honors the phone as Invention of the Year.
October 2007 - RIM passes 10 million subscribers. News of a China distribution deal boosts shares, making it for a time the most valuable company in Canada by market capitalization.
November 2007 - Google’s open source Android platform is unveiled. It launches in October 2008.
May 2008 - RIM introduces the Bold, a major redesign and still one of its top-tier products. The new model matches the resolution, but not size, of Apple’s iPhone screen.
July 2008 - Apple opens App Store in 22 countries and releases iPhone 3G, preloaded with App Store support.
November 2008 - RIM launches BlackBerry Storm, its first touchscreen and keyboard-less device. The screen uses a tactile feedback technology known as haptics, allowing a user to click down to select actions. The model bombs.
April 2009 - RIM’s App World goes live.
June 2009 - Apple announces and releases iPhone 3GS.
June 2010 - RIM pays C$200 million for QNX Software Systems, getting an industrial-strength operating system used in massive Internet routers, nuclear power plants and car infotainment systems. In same month Apple launches iPhone 4.
August 2010 - RIM launches BlackBerry Torch, a touchscreen phone with slide-out keyboard and improved web browser.
Sept 27, 2010 - RIM announces the PlayBook tablet, running on a version of the QNX system.
December 2010 - RIM acquires user interface company The Astonishing Tribe.
February 2011 - Nokia, the world’s largest smartphone vendor by volume, abandons its Symbian operating system to form alliance with Microsoft Corp.
March 2, 2011 - Apple unveils iPad 2 and ships it later in the same month.
April 19, 2011 - RIM launches PlayBook in United States and Canada. Early reviews pan the tablet for lacking core BlackBerry functions such as email and organizer functions. The company says it plans to add them in February 2012.
April 28, 2011 - RIM slashes an already dismal financial forecast for current quarter but maintains a full-year earnings outlook of $7.50 a share.
June 16, 2011 - RIM misses its lowered quarterly revenue target, gives more limp forecasts and resets the full-year outlook to between $5.25 and $6 a share. It says it will slash more than 10 percent of its workforce and buy back stock.
July 12, 2011 - Executives deflect criticism at annual general meeting after an activist shareholder withdrew a motion to force co-CEOs Lazaridis and Balsillie to relinquish their other shared role as board chairmen.
Sept 6, 2011 - A second activist shareholder asks the board to wrest control from Lazaridis and Balsillie and consider RIM putting itself up for sale or spinning off units.
Sept 15, 2011 - RIM reports another poor quarter including a sharp drop in phone and tablet shipments. It points to the low end of latest full year earnings outlook.
Oct 10-13, 2011 - Millions of BlackBerry users on five continents are left without email, Internet and instant messaging service by a massive failure of RIM’s infrastructure.
Nov 29, 2011 - In an acknowledgement of its slipping grip on the corporate sector, RIM offers to manage rival devices including Apple’s iPhone and iPad.
Dec 2, 2011 - The company books a huge writedown on PlayBook inventory, which it is discounting heavily to provoke sales.
Dec 15, 2011 - RIM delays its QNX-based BlackBerry 10 phones until late 2012 and gives tepid short-term outlook. The co-CEOs agree to an immediate pay cut to $1 each.
Jan 22, 2012 - RIM says Lazaridis and Balsillie are stepping down from their shared roles as chief executives and chairmen roles they share. The company appoints Thorstein Heins as CEO and Barbara Stymiest as chair of the board.
March 29, 2012 - Heins promises a strategic overhaul as RIM reports a slump in BlackBerry shipments and says RIM will no longer issue financial forecasts.
May 29, 2012 - RIM says it has hired bankers to assist with a strategic review and warns that it will likely report a fiscal first-quarter operating loss.
June 28, 2012 - RIM delays BlackBerry 10 again, putting off the launch to early 2013.
Sept 24, 2012 - RIM’s Toronto-listed stock touches C$6.10, its lowest level in nearly a decade.
Sept 27, 2012 - RIM surprises investors with a narrower-than-expected loss and boosts its cash reserves, sparking a rally that will extend into late December.
Nov 12, 2012 - RIM says it will launch BlackBerry 10 on January 30.
Dec 21, 2012 - RIM shares plunge more than 20 percent on fears that a new fee structure for its high-margin services segment could put pressure on a business that has set the company apart from its competitors.
Jan 30, 2013 - Heins formally unveils the BlackBerry 10 at a glitzy launch event in New York, with simultaneous gatherings in other cities around the world.
In conjunction with the launch, Heins announces that the company is changing its name to BlackBerry.
Reporting by Alastair Sharp and Allison Martell; Editing by Peter Galloway