WATERLOO — Two new BlackBerries being showcased on Jan. 30 “are just the beginning” of the transformation of pioneering smartphone maker Research In Motion Ltd., chief operating officer Kristian Tear said Wednesday.
RIM’s portfolio of mobile computing offerings based on the QNX operating system will expand “as time goes by,” said Tear, whose position was created by chief executive Thorsten Heins after he took the helm at the start of the year. Tear said the initial devices, one with a touch screen and the other maintaining RIM’s popular physical keyboard, but with enhanced intuitive and multilingual capabilities, could be followed by other phones possibly with varying prices and features.
Tear said part of his role is to oversee a flawless launch of the new handsets, software and platform collectively known as BlackBerry 10 and to avoid the delays and missteps that have hampered RIM in the recent past. Analysts have also said RIM must avoid glitches, such as the problems with maps that marred the rollout of Apple Inc.’s latest iPhone.
The final version of the first two devices due in January is expected to exclude a home button but add a notification light that flashes when message arrive. Details including pricing and distribution arrangements among carriers will be unveiled in January and Tear said the new phone and software will be on store shelves soon after the launch, and will be launched in countries around the globe simultaneously. Tear acknowledged that a lot is riding on the phones and platform after RIM’s lack of new devices triggered a plunge in U.S. market share over the past two years, adding that he is confident RIM can be turned around.
He said local rollout dates are subject to carrier discretion, with up to 60 global carriers currently testing the devices for technical certification. Tear said RIM’s existing BB7 smartphones, leaders in developing markets including Indonesia and Nigeria, will remain in the company’s lineup for the foreseeable future.
The company on Wednesday also said it will offer free voice calling over a Wi-Fi network using the popular BBM messaging service, an update available for customer s using the BlackBerry 6 operating system or higher.
Tear said RIM takes a broad view of the potential of the new platform that Heins has said could support mobile computing applications in cars, appliances and industrial setting in addition to phones and tablets.
“We want to be the leader in mobile computing,” Tear said.
He said the two new phones, rumored to be L Series devices under the London code name, offer unique and innovative features that set them apart from rival offerings such as the iPhone and Android handsets, adding that he believes the BB10 interface with its message hub and app multitasking using a flow and hide feature is the best in the business. BB10 will not require users to repeatedly switch between apps, but allow them to hide and reveal the programs with the flick of a thumb.
Tear also said that BB10 will offer more apps that any other operating system has at launch.
The company has been criticized for a lack of apps compared to the iPhone and Samsung Android offerings but Tear, while not specifying numbers, said the problem has been solved “big time. We will have quality and quantity,” he added.
The COO said RIM is focused on its ground game in launching BB10, meeting with customers around the world and engaging social media to augment a marketing push to accompany the launch.