TORONTO/VANCOUVER Research in Motion gave analysts a sneak peek at a revamped operating system for its BlackBerry smartphone on Monday and said it would launch it next quarter, propelling its shares higher.
Describing the long-awaited operating system as one of the biggest BlackBerry overhauls in years, RIM co-Chief Executive Mike Lazaridis showed a short video of the system, called OS 6.0, to the analysts, who were gathered in Orlando, Florida.
"Shock and awe," was the response in the room to the clip, said Mackie Research Capital analyst Nick Agostino in an email from the investor conference, which took place on the eve of RIM's annual Wireless Enterprise Symposium. That event runs through Thursday.
Agostino said the audience was quiet during the demonstration and then broke into applause. "(It's the) first time I had seen that type of response midway through (a) presentation," Agostino said.
The more touch-friendly operating system and display may help dispel concerns that rival smartphones like Apple Inc's iPhone and Motorola Inc's Droid are being favored by consumers, who want easy-to-use, intuitive devices.
The snippet on OS 6.0 created a "big buzz," said Canaccord Adams analyst Peter Misek in an email from Orlando.
RIM's stock, which earlier in the day was down almost 3 percent, retraced its losses as the operating system was unveiled. It ended C$2.29 higher, or up 3.2 percent, at C$72.87 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
On Nasdaq, the stock closed $2.08 stronger, or up 2.95 percent, at $72.70.
Lazaridis said RIM aimed to make all its devices run the new operating system, although integration "takes time."
Asked if existing BlackBerry smartphones could be upgraded, he said: "We are going to try and do our best to allow people to upgrade to 6.0."
A new, more user-friendly browser, another key development investors want to see from RIM, will be included in the new operating system, Lazaridis said.
NEW VERSIONS OF BOLD, PEARL
Earlier in the day RIM said it is launching variations of two existing BlackBerry smartphones.
A CDMA version of the high-end BlackBerry Bold will ship in May to both Verizon and Sprint Nextel -- two of North America's largest wireless carriers that run CDMA networks -- the company said in a statement. The BlackBerry Bold is already available to carriers that operate GSM networks.
GSM and CDMA are the two main types of mobile technology used by wireless carriers around the world. CDMA lost the battle for global dominance but it still has a strong position in some markets.
The Waterloo, Ontario-based company is also taking the wraps off a new 3G version of the Pearl, the smallest smartphone in the BlackBerry product range. The new GSM device will allow faster data downloads on newer 3G networks.
Analysts hope the software improvements will allow RIM to compete more effectively against the iPhone, Droid and a slew of other smartphones that have been nibbling away at RIM's market share.
Consumer-friendly enhancements, such as more powerful in-phone cameras and an easier-to-navigate display, are also in the offing, co-CEO Jim Balsillie said earlier on Monday.
"You are going to see very powerful extensions on our part. I don't think you have to be too patient either," he said.
RIM's apps store, which analysts say falls far short of Apple's offerings, is growing rapidly with downloads doubling in last 120 days to about 1 million a day.
RIM also announced an upgraded version of its mobile voice system (MVS) technology on Monday, which allows for the seamless integration of a customer's office landline and BlackBerry. The technology currently allows the two devices to work as one and a user can route all outgoing calls through his office landline.
The latest upgrade to the MVS technology will allow users to make and receive phone calls from their BlackBerry smartphones over a Wi-Fi connection.
(Editing by Frank McGurty)