NEW YORK (Reuters) - Research In Motion Ltd unveiled a long-delayed line of smartphones on Wednesday it says will put the company on the comeback trail in a market it once dominated, promising its BlackBerry 10 devices will wow consumers and businesses alike when they finally hit stores.
Signaling his hopes for a fresh start for the company that pioneered on-your-hip email, Chief Executive Thorsten Heins said RIM was abandoning the name it has used since its inception in 1985. From now on, he told tech analysts and other guests, the company will just be known as BlackBerry.
“We have transformed ourselves inside and out, and we have defined our vision ... which makes today the perfect time for another big announcement I want to share. From this point forward, RIM becomes BlackBerry.” Heins said at the New York launch. “It is one brand; it is one promise.”
RIM shares rallied initially on Wednesday, but soon fell to levels about 7 percent below Tuesday’s close. Over the past four years, the stock has dropped as much as 90 percent below its 2008 peak as the BlackBerry lost ground to rival devices. But in the last four months its shares have more than doubled in value as buzz grew about the new devices.
The new devices boast fast browsers, new features, smart cameras and, unlike previous BlackBerry models, enter the market primed with a large app library, including services such as Skype and the popular game Angry Birds.
Both new devices are sleek black numbers, one with the small “qwerty” keyboard that RIM made into its trademark, and one a pure touchscreen device that looks much like those its competitors already produce.
“We have definitely been on a journey of transformation, a journey to not only transform our business and our brand, but one which I truly believe will transform mobile communications into true mobile computing,” Heins said.
RIM picked a range of venues for its global launch parties. Toronto’s announcement was in the downtown art deco Carlu rooms, while the Dubai event was held at the $650-a-night Armani hotel, which occupies six floors of the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest tower.
The New York event took place in a sprawling basketball facility on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, just north of the Manhattan bridge. The Blackberry has been “Re-designed. Re-engineered. Re-invented,” RIM said.
RIM launched its first BlackBerry as a way for busy executives to stay in touch with their clients and their offices, and the company quickly cornered the market for secure corporate and government email.
But its star faded as competition rose from the likes of Apple and Google’s Android operating system. The BlackBerry is now a far-behind also-ran in the race for market share, with a 3.4 percent global showing in the fourth quarter, down from 20 percent three years before.
In North America, the market that sets technology trends for the rest of the world, RIM’s fourth-quarter North American market share fell to 2 percent, from more than 40 percent three years ago. (Writing by Janet Guttsman; Editing by Frank McGurty, Lisa Von Ahn and Peter Galloway)