After years of frustrating delays, scary earnings reports and multiple rounds of layoffs, Research In Motion's shot at redemption has arrived.
Except it's not Research In Motion anymore — the company announced Tuesday it is rebranding itself BlackBerry, after its flagship smartphone product.
The announcement came at BlackBerry 10 launch events around the world, where the company announced a Feb. 5 release date for the first BB10 phone in Canada.
The company also stunned some observers by announcing renowned singer Alicia Keys would be coming on board as global creative director, focused on developing media content for the phone. (The BlackBerry was long criticized for lacking many of the media and entertainment options that other smartphones offer, and this should go some way towards dispelling that image.)
But the company saw its stock drop sharply during the several hours its launch event was taking place, likely the result of profit-taking by investors who have seen RIM shares soar over the past few months, in anticipation of the BB10 release.
RIM (TSX:RIM) had been up as much as four per cent prior before chief executive Thorsten Heins unveiled the BB10 and announced the company's corporate name would be changed to BlackBerry at a widely covered event in New York City.
By late morning, RIM stock was down 55 cents or 3.5 per cent to $15.16, adding to declines over the past two sessions — 3.4 per cent Tuesday and a 7.6 per cent drop on Monday. The stock had staged a huge comeback since hitting a fresh 52-week low of $6.10 last September.
The new phone launch is BlackBerry's attempt to regain its position in the highly competitive North American and European smartphone markets, which are now dominated by iPhone and Android devices.
While the first hurdles to overcome are the opinions of tech analysts and investor reaction, the true measure of success — actual sales of the phones — is still weeks away.
Among the features being touted at Wednesday's event:
— As you type, the operating system predicts what word you want and you can swipe to have it auto-completed.
— BlackBerry Hub acts as one place for all incoming messages, email, BBM, social media.
— BlackBerry Balance then allows one phone to operate as both a business and personal device entirely separate from each other.
— Apps have been divided into two sections by tabs at the top of the screen, labelled Personal and Work.
— The new BlackBerry will also let users seamlessly shift between the phone's applications like they're flipping between pages on a desk.
— With files from The Canadian Press