Ina Fried

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RIM Aims for Reinvention With BlackBerry 10 Launch

It’s hard to overstate how important the launch of BlackBerry 10 is for Research In Motion.

blackberry_10_screens

After months of delays, the company really needs a strong reception for the new phones and operating system, due to be shown off later on Wednesday at an event in New York.

RIM is pulling out all the stops, starting with the event here, and continuing with a marketing blitz that includes the company’s first-ever Super Bowl ad.

There are a bunch of things to watch for beyond the device and software itself. First off will be which apps and services RIM has managed to get to support the products at launch. They’ve already announced some support, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Foursquare, the NHL and Major League Baseball.

But these days the list of apps and services that consumers expect to use on their phone has grown long and wide. Also key will be how much love the company is getting from the cellular carriers. Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile have all said they will carry new BlackBerry devices, but just when and how much marketing they will get is another question.

AllThingsD will have live coverage and analysis as things get going around 7 am PT.

9:31 am: It’s still half hour to go, but we are in and seated.

For those wondering just where things are taking place, the event is at a pier on the lower eastern tip of Manhattan.

9:37 am: While we have a second, I’d like to introduce the band. We have Lauren Goode on camera and color commentary. I’m Ina, and I’ll be on the keyboard.

9:45 am: While we are waiting, it’s a good time to check out this classic video from RIM’s BlackBerry Jam developer event last year. Yes, those are actually RIM employees covering REO Speedwagon. And no, very little rhymes with SDK.

Screen Shot 2013-01-30 at 9.48.57 AM

9:46 am: Lauren here. A quick survey of the press area shows a lot of … iPhones being used. But I did spot at least one BlackBerry PlayBook in the wild.

10:00 am: Things should kick off momentarily, eh.

10:03 am: Looks like they will have Angry Birds for BB10.

Screen Shot 2013-01-30 at 10.02.30 AM

10:05 am: A RIM guy is “reporting live” from the middle of the press section, showing video and pictures from some of the simultaneous launch events around the globe, including Toronto, Paris, London and Dubai.

10:07 am: Roll video of people excited about BlackBerry 10. Some carriers, customers, etc.

10:10 am: Now the RIM emcee is interviewing RIM developer relations executive Alec Saunders.

10:12 am: Next canned video is of BlackBerry fans sticking “Honk if you like BlackBerry 10” stickers on cars.

10:14 am: Best part so far. The guy from BlackBerry fan site CrackBerry has been growing his hair, waiting for BlackBerry 10 (it’s quite long). They just cut off his ponytail to cheers.

“The wait is over,” says the emcee, as CEO Thorsten Heins takes the stage.

10:16 am: “We have definitely been on a journey of transformation,” Heins says. “Now, finally, here we are.”

10:18 am: “Today is actually not the finish line,” Heins says. “It is the starting line.”

10:19 am: He’s talking about the BlackBerry 10 customer, using the same kinds of terms he has used in the past, talking about fast-moving, hyperconnected people.

10:22 am: Heins says the company had a big decision to make two years ago, in choosing whether to license someone else’s operating system or continue building its own software.

“We made the tough call to go it alone,” Heins says.

10:24 am: Heins gives a shout out to former CEO Mike Lazaridis, who is in the audience.

“Thank you for guiding us into the future,” Heins says.

Heins says the company is dropping the RIM brand and going with the name BlackBerry for the company and its products.

“From today on, we are BlackBerry everywhere in the world,” Heins says.

10:27 am: And there they are, the first two devices. The touchscreen BlackBerry Z10 (or “Zed 10,” as Heins calls it), and the keyboard-equipped Q10.

The Z10 has a 4.2-inch display with roughly 350 pixels per inch.

“There’s a lot of physical-keyboard lovers out there,” Heins says. “We heard you loud and clear.”

Heins promises that both touchscreen and physical-keyboard BB10 devices will offer the best typing experience on a smartphone.

10:32 am: Head of software Vivek Bhardwaj comes out to demo the new devices, showing off the BlackBerry Hub — the central place that is a swipe away, and offers access to email and other messaging.

“It’s about moving between applications,” he says. “It’s not about home buttons.”

Another feature, also previously demoed, lets users peek into the Hub while doing other things, such as watching a video.

The Hub can handle BBM messages, Facebook friend requests, LinkedIn invitations and email, among other communications.

“You’ll notice everything is easy to manage,” Bhardwaj says.

One can not only read messages from within the Hub, but act on them. Within the Hub, one can accept a friend request, post a Tweet or do other actions, without opening a separate app.

10:37 am: Also available is your next meeting, both the time and information, as well as details on the people who are attending. The contact details include the most recent text messages and call data, as well as contact information and their recent status updates.

Demo of the software keyboard, which does some really good autocorrect. (Are you listening, Apple?)

One can even move between different languages in one message. Que bueno!

10:42 am: In addition to changing its name from RIM to BlackBerry, the company is switching its Nasdaq ticker symbol to BBRY.

10:43 am: Next demo is BlackBerry Balance, the feature that lets one have separate areas for work and personal stuff. They are making the case that this won’t interrupt the flow, and will provide a unified interface — a tricky feat for such container-based systems.

Heins says he hoped that some of those people carrying two devices will merge and carry one BlackBerry 10 phone.

10:45 am: Most (all?) of the software features shown so far have been part of previous BlackBerry 10 discussions.

Ruh-roh! The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the first BB10 devices won’t hit the U.S. market until mid-March.

10:47 am: Meanwhile, RIM is showing BBM video, which allows both video chat and screen sharing from within the BlackBerry social messaging app.

10:49 am: Another new feature — BlackBerry Remember, which lets you flag emails, Web pages or other content, and assign a due date. Notes, photos or voice memos can be appended to a reminder.

10:51 am: Verizon Wireless says it will carry both new BlackBerry 10 devices, with the Z10 selling for $199. Of note: No availability date was listed.

10:53 am: Back onstage, RIM — I mean, BlackBerry — is demoing the camera app, which has some built-in editing features.

10:55 am: And, here’s Walt Mossberg’s review of the new products.

10:57 am: Demo of features seems to be wrapping up as Heins says, “This is the new BlackBerry.”

10:58 am: Critical piece, as BlackBerry starts to talk about partners.

Heins mentions that major studios will have content, as announced earlier this week. BlackBerry VP Martyn Mallick comes onstage to talk about how the company went after key applications.

Mallick says BlackBerry is launching BB10 with more apps (more than 70,000) than any first-generation smartphone.

But, of course, its key rivals aren’t in their first generation.

11:01 am: Mallick is talking about apps “committed” to BB10.

SAP, Skype, WhatsApp, Angry Birds, all on that list.

But, by using the word committed, it suggests not all will be there at launch.

11:01 am: Gaming titles include Where’s My Perry? and titles from EA and GameLoft. Entertainment options include Rdio and TuneIn (but no mention of Spotify, Netflix, Hulu, etc.)

Mallick says the company went after the global and local titles that were most popular on other platforms.

11:07 am: I know what you’re thinking: When can I get it?

In the U.S. market, big four carriers will announce preregistration today but expectation is that it won’t ship on “most” carriers till March. Sounds like one or two could be later than that.

In Canada, the Z10 will be available on Feb. 5, with pricing around $149 on a three-year contract.

11:10 am: Heins says RIM has hired singer Alicia Keys as global creative director.

And Keys appears onstage.

Heins: You were a long-term BlackBerry customer, but then you started using other phones. What happened?

Keys: I was in a long-term relationship with BlackBerry, and I started to notice some new, hotter devices at the gym. I started playing the field.

“I kind of broke up with you,” Keys says. But I missed the way you organized me. Then you called. You told me you were working out. “Now we are exclusively dating again, and I am very happy.”

Heins: “So are we.”

The end of the laptop in favor of mobile computing parallels the changes in music, Keys says. “We have a lot in common.”

Duet?

Keys says that in her role as creative director, she will work with carriers, customers, app designers, as well as folks in the entertainment and music business.

“It’s a big job,” Keys says.

Keys says she is taking her BlackBerry 10 with her on tour. “It will be with me on Sunday at the Super Bowl.”

11:21 am: The satellite feed is now cut, and Heins is speaking only to the U.S. audience.

Heins says he wants the crowd here to be among RIM’s first users. “So what that means is everyone here will take a Blackberry Zed 10 home with them today,” Heins says.

11:22 am: With that, Heins exits the stage, though he will have a Q&A with reporters shortly. (We’ll be there, of course.)

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