BUSINESS

BlackBerry 10 almost as powerful as a laptop, CEO tells developer conference

09/25/2012 12:53 EDT | Updated 11/25/2012 05:12 EST
Research In Motion's "fighting spirit" was touted Tuesday as the struggling smartphone pioneer showcased the BlackBerry 10 platform it will release into a market dominated by Apple and Android phones.

The BB10 operating system — widely seen as RIM's last chance at reclaiming its former glory — will act more like a laptop computer on-the-go, CEO Thorsten Heins told the BlackBerry Jam Americas developer conference.

"We are at the start of a new era in mobile computing," said Heins.

"And with BlackBerry 10, we are readying this platform for the future."

The operating system will have "processing power close to a laptop" and is on track for release, along with a new BlackBerry smartphone, in early 2013, he said.

The Waterloo, Ont., company has lost market share to Apple's iPhone and other smartphones running Android, especially with tech savvy consumers in North America.

"We recognize the need for change," Heins said in a keynote speech that was webcast.

"There is a new culture at RIM. There's a new energy and a lot of fighting spirit."

Heins said the company has grown its user base to approximately 80 million, up from 78 million at the end of the second quarter just ended last month. Analysts were expecting RIM to show a flat, or declining, subscriber base for the quarter — the results of which will be released on Thursday.

Shares in Research in Motion closed up 32 cents, or 5.2 per cent, to $6.50 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

RIM (TSX:RIM) has been criticized for the delays in the launch of its new generation of smartphones, delays that have left the company with few new devices to sell. The company has recently focused on selling lower-priced handsets in markets outside North America.

Heins said BlackBerry 10 will have a "killer fast" browser experience, addressing a past criticism of RIM's ability to easily access the web. BlackBerry App World will also be refreshed.

The new operating system will separate a user's personal and corporate information and both sets of information will be encrypted and fully secure.

The updated BlackBerry Messenger instant text service will allow a user to type in more than one language in the same sentence and the "device will understand what I am doing," Heins said.

To put the device to sleep, a user drags a finger down the screen and it goes black.

The demonstration smartphone was being used with one hand and allowed its user to easily manipulate the touch screen with a finger. The device had a touch-screen keyboard, but RIM has said the new operating system will also be offered on products with physical keyboards.

Heins also demonstrated what's being called the BlackBerry Hub, which lets users look at their individual inboxes for work or personal emails or at social networks like Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter with a swipe gesture. Users can also check their calendar for appointments.

Users will also be able to "peek" at their notifications at any time and return to their unified inbox at any time, he said.

RIM also released an update to allow software developers to develop BBM enabled applications for the new generation of smartphones.

Some analysts, though, have said once RIM launches its new smartphones they will only be catching up to Apple and Android devices.

And RIM may have to contend with some bad news when it releases its second-quarter financial results on Thursday.

Telecom analyst Anil Doradla said his latest round of checks across North America indicate RIM continues to suffer due to the delayed launch of the new operating system, lack of new products and competitive threats.

"BlackBerry smartphones remain an afterthought in the consumer market, with several stores going weeks between BlackBerry sales and no mention of individual BlackBerry devices among top-selling handsets at North American stores," said Doradla, of Chicago-based William Blair & Co.

"Ultimately, we do not envision a change until BlackBerry 10 devices roll out, and the acceptance of these products remains questionable, given the large share losses that RIM is suffering," Doradla wrote in a research note.