RIM to unveil BlackBerry 10 smartphones in January

BlackBerry handset

Pair of smartphones running the delayed OS will arrive next year

RIM will finally introduce BlackBerry 10 and two new smartphones on 30 January, after twice delaying the launch.

Research in Motion is betting its future on the new products, which will be powered by the operating system. RIM has struggled over the past two years as its devices lost ground to more powerful and fully featured smartphones such as Apple's iPhone and Samsung's Galaxy line.

The company has said the first devices will have touchscreens, while handsets with the mini QWERTY keyboards that many long-time BlackBerry users favour will come a few weeks later. However, RIM said the software-based keyboard would "learn" how users type, "giving you the kind of legendary typing experience that only BlackBerry can deliver".

Our team has been working tirelessly to bring our customers innovative features combined with a best in class browser, a rich application ecosystem, and cutting-edge multimedia capabilities

RIM said its new devices will be faster and smoother and have a wide selection of apps. The OS features BlackBerry Flow, a new system to easily move through open apps, as well as a central messaging "hub" and profile management called "Balance" that keeps work and personal data separate.

"Our team has been working tirelessly to bring our customers innovative features combined with a best-in-class browser, a rich application ecosystem, and cutting-edge multimedia capabilities," said CEO Thorsten Heins. "All of this will be integrated into a user experience – the BlackBerry Flow – that is unlike any smartphone on the market today."

RIM said the twice-delayed launch would take place simultaneously in multiple countries. The company did not say when the devices will be available in stores.

Last week, RIM said the new platform and devices had received US government security clearance. These were the first BlackBerry products to win Federal Information Processing Standard 140-2 certifications ahead of their introduction, the company said.

All or nothing

Some analysts fear that RIM faces tough challenges in an ultra-competitive smartphone market.

Pacific Crest analyst James Faucette said earlier this month that BlackBerry 10 was likely to be dead on arrival, with an operating system that gets "a lukewarm response at best," due to the unfamiliar user interface and a shortage of apps.

Others disagree. Paradigm Capital analyst Gabriel Leung said the devices could help reverse RIM's market share losses in crucial markets such as North America. "We believe the company has significantly improved its ability to attract developers to build apps for the BB10 ecosystem," Leung said in a recent note to clients.

RIM's stock has fallen more than 90% from a peak of over $148 in 2008. But at Friday's close, the shares were up about 20% over the last two months on signs that the BlackBerry 10 devices are finally likely to make it to market.

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