Research In Motion changes name to BlackBerry, debuts new smartphones to lukewarm reception

Research In Motion has shaken up the smartphone world this morning after the company announced it would change its name to BlackBerry, the same as its famous smartphone line, as it debuted more handsets in a last-ditch attempt to claw back lost market share.

But early impressions suggest the company’s new brand – along with its new BlackBerry 10 operating system and Z10 smartphone – aren’t everything analysts hoped they’d be.

Investors didn’t think so either, after the company’s shares fell 6% after the extensive press conference. It’s a disappointing start to what is meant to herald BlackBerry’s return to the mainstream after several lean years as the underdog.

Research firm Ovum said despite the fact BlackBerry 10 offers a suite of new features, and the Z10 smartphone looks distinct from the iPhone or Android devices, it may not be enough.

“Ovum believes that despite a well-designed Blackberry 10 platform that will certainly attract short-term interest from existing users, the company will struggle to appeal to a wider audience and in the long term will become a niche player in the smartphone market,” it said.

BlackBerry has been caught in a downward spiral for several years, losing key executives and employees as it fails to compete with industry leaders Apple and Samsung.

Last night the company debuted its BlackBerry 10 system, alongside two new smartphones – the Z10 and the Q10. The BlackBerry 10 software was given a large chunk of time in the conference, showing off 70,000 third party apps, including popular title such as Skype, Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp.


Above: The BlackBerry Q10

A lack of third-party apps has been a key point of criticism among analysts.

The two new major smartphones running BB10 were debuted, although most of the attention has been on the Z10 – which features a full touchscreen and signals a new direction for the company well known for its plastic keyboards.

So far reviews have been mainly positive, with sites such as The Verge and Engadget noting both gadgets operate well with the new BB10 software. However, Engadget’s Tim Stevens noted while the device itself is good, it offers nothing new to iPhone and Android owners.

“There’s not enough meat here, there’s no single killer feature that will drive a full-scale flock of people to BB 10 and rocket it into a solid third position in the mobile OS race. I think that’s what a lot of people, myself included, were hoping we might see today.”

Others were more positive. Jefferies & Co analyst Peter Misek said in a statement the announcement “puts them back in the game”, while Forrester analyst Charles Golvin said the gadget “lives up to the hype”.


Above: The BlackBerry Z10

However, he also noted only about two in five BlackBerry customers say their next phone will be a BlackBerry, “and this is a huge problem”.

That problem is well known by the manufacturer, which is why yesterday’s biggest surprise was chief executive Thorsten Hein’s announcement the business will no longer be known as Research In Motion. Instead, the company will rebrand as BlackBerry.

“We have reinvented the company, and we want to represent this in our brand,” Heins said. “One brand. One promise. Our customers use a BlackBerry, our employees work for BlackBerry, and our shareholders are owners of BlackBerry.”

The company will even show an advertisement during next week’s Super Bowl to champion the new name.

Analysts who didn’t see much hope in the company’s phones did praise this change, saying the simplification of the business will help the company improve.

But as Ovum said in its own statement, BlackBerry users will already be happy. The difficulty will be in convincing others to come on board.

“The challenge for the company will be to attract new users and those that have already moved to alternative smartphones”


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