RIM disappointed but hopeful with BlackBerry 10

The new
marketing chief for
BlackBerry smartphones
isn't dejected by
perceptions that his
products look ancient next to iPhones and
Android devices.
Frank Boulben, four weeks into his job as chief
marketing officer for Research in Motion Ltd.,
promises to impress people when phones running
the company's new BlackBerry 10 software are
released in early 2013, at least a year later than
analysts had expected.
RIM will tout features that current devices lack, he
said. Few details about BlackBerry 10 have been
released, but the company has said it will include
the ability to run multiple programs at once and
will let users switch between programs without
returning to the home screen. Android devices
and iPhones typically require people to return to
the home screen to start or resume an app, while
traditional computers let you jump directly to
"You'll be able to flow seamlessly from one
application to another," Boulben said in an
interview Monday with The Associated Press. "The
underlying operating system is truly
But touting new features is just part of the
challenge. BlackBerry devices will be
handicapped because, compared with rivals, they
have fewer games, utilities and other apps
available to extend the phones' functionality.
Analysts believe RIM is running out of time to turn
itself around. RIM is holding its annual
shareholders meeting in Waterloo, Ontario, on
Tuesday, less than two weeks after announcing
disappointing financial results, deep job cuts and
the latest delay in BlackBerry 10. Its stock is
trading near a nine-year low and closed Monday
at $7.67, down 43 cents, or 5.3 percent, for the
Sales of the once-pioneering BlackBerry phones
fell 41 percent in the latest quarter and likely
won't pick up again until new phones come out
next year. By then, people will have even more
choices, including a new iPhone expected from
Apple this fall and phones running the latest
version of Google's Android software, called Jelly
Bean. Phones running a revamped version of
Microsoft's Windows system are also coming this
Although BlackBerrys were once a staple in
corporate environments because of their
reputation for security and reliability, they've lost
their cachet as iPhones demonstrated that
smartphones are good for more than email. The
BlackBerry's U.S. market share has plummeted
from 41 percent in 2007, when the first iPhone
came out, to less than 4 percent in the first three
months of 2012, according to research firm IDC.
RIM portrays BlackBerry 10 as its way of catching
up. It promises the multimedia, Internet browsing
and apps experience that customers now
demand. Better multitasking, Boulben said, is one
way the new BlackBerry won't become a "me too"
Boulben said the smartphone market is still new
and growing, so RIM can go after the millions of
people around the world who still don't have
smartphones. He added that people in the U.S.
replace their phones every 18 months on average,
giving RIM a chance to lure them with the new
BlackBerry devices.
"We won't be present for this year, but next year
we will be present in a larger market," he said.
Boulben also said he has developed a global
marketing strategy for BlackBerry 10. In the past,
countries and regions ran their own campaigns,
which caused conflicting messages to appear
when people searched for information online.
Centralizing marketing, he said, will reduce costs
and allow the company to take better advantage
of global social-networking services such as
Facebook. He's counting on word of mouth once
the first people get their hands on new
But BlackBerrys will still be far behind in the
number of apps available from outside software
developers. These are the games, maps, photo-
sharing programs and other tools that extend the
functionality and popularity of existing devices.
Apple and Google each claim more than 500,000
apps for iPhone and Android devices, while
BlackBerry's app store has fewer than 100,000.
To succeed, RIM will need to excite not only
phone buyers, but also the software developers
who'd make the BlackBerry apps. Analyst Steven
Li at Raymond James has warned that the
repeated BlackBerry 10 delays could discourage
those developers from doing so.

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