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When Research In Motion Ltd. in 2011 announced the first delay in the launch of its next-generation mobile operating system, then-co-CEO Mike Lazaridis said the platform when it finally emerged would be worth the wait.
On Wednesday, with RIM set to unveil the BlackBerry 10 OS and two handsets, likely touch screen and tactile keyboard versions in a multi-city launch event, consumers will get a sense about whether he was right.
And RIM has passed a key hurdle in that reviews from analysts, tech bloggers and journalists of the OS and hardware, a radical departure from BlackBerries of the past, have been almost uniformly positive.
Controlled by gestures, users can tap an app, slide down to open other options such as phone and messages in the integrated BlackBerry Hub, then slide up from the bottom to leave the application without actually closing it.
“They should just be there.”
Some analysts believe RIM engineers have succeeded in building an operating system from the ground up strong enough to challenge Microsoft’s Windows 8 — a platform being adopted by a growing list of hardware vendors — for third spot in global sales.
But RIM has paid dearly for its commitment to getting BB10 just right as its U.S. market share plunged to 1.6 per cent in November, according to Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, from more than 40 per cent in 2010.
Many analysts say product refresh delays and other setbacks including a three-day BlackBerry outage in the fall of 2011 and release of a tablet PC without native email opened the door for Apple and Samsung.
“Wow, what a disaster,” Edward Snyder of Charter Equity Research said after RIM announced a delay in the BB10 launch to the first quarter of 2013, past the critical back to school and holiday shopping season. The first BB10 device based on QNX software was initially slated to launch in early 2012.
RIM is in “a handset death spiral,” he said about a company that dominated the U.S. market in 2008, when its stock peaked at $ 148 (U.S.).
Vendors such as Symantec and IBM launched new offerings in the mobile device management sector RIM is counting on to bolster service fees — revenue that is under pressure with the BlackBerry’s declining market share.
Manufacturers in Asia have churned out low-end handsets, with Huawei taking third spot in global smartphone shipments in the fourth quarter, posting year-over year growth of more than 85 per cent, IDC added.
The company will have posted several consecutive quarters of operating losses before impacts from the BB10 rollout are felt on its balance sheet, with some analyst forecasting red ink into 2014.
The upshot is that RIM needs a game-changer in BB10 if has any hope of winning customers from Apple and Android in the U.S., which may be required for the company to return to profitability and avoid a break up or hostile takeover.
BB10 — What we know
While questions around pricing, sales dates, even the names of new devices remain, a good deal is already understood about Research In Motion’s BlackBerry 10 operating system and smartphones to be officially released Wednesday.
• Called Cascades, RIM’s version allows users to swipe apps from view while leaving them open in the background.
• Users can toggle between personal modes to secured work-related apps
• Boosted screen resolution and improved camera.
thestar.com – Business