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RIM enters last chance saloon with BlackBerry 10 launch

30 Jan 2013
BlackBerry 10 at BlackBerry Jam Americas 2012

Research in Motion's (RIM) last major chance at regaining ground in the cutthroat smartphone market will be unveiled later on Wednesday with its much touted BlackBerry 10 platform.

The operating system revamp is one of the most crucial launches in the company's history and will need to impress investors, analysts, businesses and consumers if the firm is to stop its decline.

The firm was the clear leader in the mobile phone market between around 2006 and 2008 with its BlackBerry devices proving hugely popular among businesses, thanks to their ease of use and security credentials.

However, the rise of the iPhone, following by Android devices, quickly pulled the rug from under the firm. RIM's failure to act quickly and update its software saw millions leave the platform.

High profile and embarrassing network outages didn't help either, while the firm's co-chief executives Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie failed to instigate the major changes and confused many by failing to give a clear insight into the leadership at the firm.

Eventually, though, they left to be replaced by Thorsten Heins, who appears to have steadied the ship, and customer numbers have grown recently, although only from 80 to 82 million.

The real hope now lies with BlackBerry 10.

The platform has been slowly revealed to the press and developer communities and first impressions have been positive, with users left impressed by the ease of use of the operating system, the text input and the BlackBerry Balance feature that allows you to partition home and work parts of the device.

However, whether these new features, and full touchscreen, non-Qwerty devices, prove enough to save the firm remains to be seen. Some analysts are sceptical, with Jan Dawson, chief telecoms analyst at Ovum arguing any boost from the firm is like to be "temporary".

"RIM continues to face the twin demons of consumer-driven buying power and a chronic inability to appeal to mature market consumers. There is nothing in what we've seen so far of BB10 that suggests it will conquer the second of these demons, and the first is utterly out of RIM's control," he said.

"We don't expect a speedy exit from the market; with no debt, 80 million subscribers and profitability in the black in at least some recent quarters, the company can continue in this vein for years. But its glory days are past, and it is only a matter of time before it reaches a natural end."

The firm also faces challenges from new systems on the market including Windows Phone 8 from Microsoft and soon-to-be-released services such as the Firefox OS, all of which offer yet more alternatives to BlackBerry.

No doubt all eyes will be on RIM today as it gears up for the announcement in what may well come to be seen as a defining moment in the firm's history, whether it leads to regrowth or decline and fall.

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Dan Worth

Dan Worth is the news editor for V3 having first joined the site as a reporter in November 2009. He specialises in a raft of areas including fixed and mobile telecoms, data protection, social media and government IT. Before joining V3 Dan covered communications technology, data handling and resilience in the emergency services sector on the BAPCO Journal

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