It was evident on Tuesday morning in San Jose that RIM CEO Thorsten Heins knows BlackBerry will have to work to stay relevant. With users still waiting for the delayed Blackberry 10 handsets, Heins had one message for developers and the media: “We are fighting,” he told them. And, “We are making believers out of people who had actually written BlackBerry off.”
But it’s hard not to do just that when BlackBerry faces tough times ahead. In June the company announced that the BlackBerry 10 wouldn’t be released until next year, and that it would cut 5,000 jobs. RIM’s presentation Tuesday was a plea for developers and carriers to hang on and wait for the new device, something the company has been saying since 2011.
RIM understandably played up its few advantages on Tuesday — a user-friendly keyboard, trusted security features, multiple language functionality and popularity in southeast Asia — but in the era of Apple mania and Android domination it’s hard to see how features like emoticon integration into the keyboard will make consumers think seriously about purchasing a BlackBerry. The company also announced that carriers are testing the new phones.
Heins, who said one of the things he’d learned in his time as CEO is that “showing is better than telling,” displayed a demo of a developer version of the BlackBerry 10, showing off apps like Facebook for BlackBerry. The company also said there would be apps for Foursquare, Twitter, and others, displayed on a touchscreen which will likely be popular with users whenever the phone ships.
While Heins didn’t name a date for shipment of the new phones, he did say it would be early 2013, which is the new target date set earlier this year. Heins spoke to a sparse audience in San Jose Tuesday at the company’s BlackBerry Jam conference that appeared to be populated by RIM staff, the media, and a handful of Blackberry developers. The developers seemed moderately excited about the announcements, but this wasn’t a raucous crowd by any stretch.
“In just a few short months away, BlackBerry 10 is on track. Our sales forces are getting ready,” Heins said. “We’re lining up carriers to get ready to deliver the first BlackBerry 10 devices to you.”
The company’s presentation is best encapsulated in its developer-marketing video that played after Heins left the stage, with lyrics like “We’ve all seen these are challenging times, baby, ‘cuz we’re in transition,” and “The launch is just ahead, we’ll have BlackBerry 10, both in full touch and QWERTY editions.” It’s a must-watch: