BlackBerry comes out swinging at BB10 launch

It proved to be a big morning for Research in Motion, rolling out its new operating system, new smartphones, new branding and a new celebrity representative for the ailing Canadian company.

The long awaited launch of BlackBerry 10 took place in New York City, with fans, media, analysts and the curious tuning in to a live stream online. RIM CEO Thorsten Heins was center stage for most of the announcement, with some speculating that if BlackBerry 10 is well received it could prove to be his “Steve Jobs moment.”

An impassioned Heins told the audience the new platform has been a journey of transformation, not only for the business and brand but for mobile computing. He insisted that innovation is at the heart of Research in Motion and applauded employees for their tireless work in bringing BB10 to market.

“Today is actually not the finish line, it’s the starting line,” he said.

And that fresh start – one that will likely make or break the company, depending on its success with BB10, its new handsets and newly revamped Enterprise software – includes a name change for company, which will now be known simply as BlackBerry.

The launch included the unveiling of the Z10, which features a 4.2-inch touchscreen, and the Q10, which features the traditional, physical BlackBerry QWERTY keyboard. The Z10 was used throughout the demonstration, which included a play-by-play on how to use the new camera, the Story Maker feature and BBM video calling, which features screen sharing capabilities that would easily facilitate remote presentations.

Its intuitive touchscreen keyboard provides the “absolute best typing experience in the industry, period,” boasted Heins, who also played up the BlackBerry Hub with its Peek and Flow features.

App development has been going well, with 70,000 options already in Blackberry World, including Skype, Kindle, Whatsapp, SAP and Angry Birds. BlackBerry Balance will allow users to keep their work and personal lives separated, all while using one device.

The company also added some star power to its new campaign, announcing songstress Alicia Keys as BlackBerry’s new Global Creative Director.

The Z10 is available in the United Kingdom starting tomorrow and will roll out in Canada on Feb. 5. Pricing will be approximately $149 on a three-year term, or $650 with no contract.

The handset will launch in the United Arab Emirates on Feb. 10, finally hitting US shelves in March. AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile will all carry the device.

Meanwhile, BlackBerry stock took a beating, dropping 3.5 per cent by late morning, continuing the fall that started Monday. Analysts say it’s too early to speculate and consumer response to BB10 will dictate the stock’s future.