The new BlackBerry 10 has created a buzz among technology watchers and financial analysts, thanks to nifty features that may set it apart in an overcrowded smartphone market. RIM stock has almost tripled during the past four months on hopes the devices can restore it to sustained prosperity.
Reviewers are taken by the browser speed and intuitive keyboard on RIM's new touchscreen. A feature called BlackBerry Balance, which keeps corporate and personal data separate, could help RIM rebuild its traditional base of big business customers.
It is a welcome start for RIM, the smartphone pioneer that has teetered on the brink of irrelevance. But success will come only if consumer and business customers embrace the new technology in the weeks and months after CEO Thorsten Heins took the wraps off the phone at a glitzy New York launch.
RIM is gambling its survival on the much-delayed BlackBerry 10, hoping to claw its way back into an industry now dominated by Apple's iPhone and Samsung's Galaxy.
The timing may be just right. The new phone hits the market just as the iPhone's remarkable run is showing some signs of slowing.
"I believe the consumer market is ready for something new," said Kevin Burden, head of mobility at Strategy Analytics, an industry consulting firm.
"I have to believe there is some level of user fatigue that plays into the longevity of some of these platforms," he added, referring to Google Inc's Android and Apple's iOS, which are both more than five years old.
"RIM is probably timing it right."
The company's shares are now about 90% below a 2008 peak near $150 a share, and RIM still has a tough fight ahead. It may take investors some time to determine whether RIM's big gamble on an untested technology has paid off.
RIM's market share collapsed in the three years ahead of the launch. Strategy Analytics data shows RIM's global share of the smartphone market was about 3.4% in the fourth quarter, down from around 20% just three years ago.
Though RIM has done well in developing markets, it has haemorrhaged customers in the US, a market that sets technology trends. RIM's fourth-quarter North American market share fell to 2% from more than 40% three years ago.
More than 150 service providers have already tested the new devices and RIM said the launch will be the largest ever global rollout of a new platform.