Authors: Carmen Cox
(NEW YORK) -- RIM is finally ready with its answer to Apple's iPhone and the many Android smartphones. After months of delays, RIM CEO Thorsten Heins, along with others from the company, will take the stage Wednesday in New York to unveil the final version of BlackBerry 10, the next version of RIM's phone software, and the phones that will run it.
"We expect tomorrow to really be the kickoff for the introduction of Blackberry 10," RIM Chief Marketing Officer Frank Boulben told ABC News in a phone interview. "We have been engaged for quite a period of time with the two main constituents -- the carriers and the developers -- and we've already said we are in the labs of more than 150 carriers around the world."
With more than 150 wireless carriers around the world planning to offer the latest BlackBerry, Boulben says it will be the most "comprehensive launch," not only for the company, but in the history of the mobile industry.
"This makes it the most comprehensive launch in mobile history. There has never been a platform launching with that many carriers," he said. When the iPhone 5 made its debut in September it actually had more -- Apple said there would be 240 carriers by December. But Boulben points out that BlackBerry 10 is an entirely new operating system that doesn't share a single line of code with previous BlackBerry software; the iPhone 5 and iOS 6, by contrast, was essentially an upgrade.
At Wednesday's event the company will show its new handsets in detail. RIM is expected to release a touch-screen device called the Z10 and another with a physical keyboard. AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon have said they will carry devices that run the new software. Boulben also said RIM will highlight major differences between BlackBerry 10 and the other leading mobile phone platforms.
"We are highly differentiated in four areas," Boulben said. The first is with communications -- RIM has designed the software around a messaging hub and new multitasking features. The second: the touch keyboard, which predicts words as you are typing them. Lastly, RIM says its BlackBerry Messenger and its BlackBerry Balance feature, which separates work from personal uses on the phone, set it apart.
Boulben would not address specifically how much market share RIM is hoping to gain back in the U.S., having lost the lead it had in the last decade. According to Kantar Worldpane ComTech's data released in November 2012, the BlackBerry brand only had 1.6 percent of the American smartphone market. The iPhone had 48.1 percent of the market and Android had 46.7.
"It's a change in smartphone experience -- the dominant paradigm, introduced six years ago, was great and revolutionary at the time. But six years is a long time for a technology cycle, with a new user experience with a clear focus we have the opportunity to take market share back," Boulben said.
While RIM is of course bullish about its new products, it faces one big challenge it might not be able to control: apps. While the platform might be innovative, it will trail behind the Apple App Store and Google Play Store in variety of apps. Boulben says the momentum around apps is strong and that Wednesday the BlackBerry World store will launch with 70,000 new apps.
Apps that worked on previous BlackBerry 7 devices won't work on the BlackBerry 10 platform, since it is completely new. Analysts say that apps are bound to be the pain point for the platform, but it's not too late to rule out RIM from taking back at least some of what it has lost.
"Given the speed that the market is moving, it's hard to be dismissive of RIM given the strength of their brand and continued loyalty of many users," Michael Gartenberg, Gartner research director, told ABC News. "It will be important for RIM to show tomorrow how they've evolved the BlackBerry to meet the challenges of other platforms and at the same time show positive differentiation."
And that seems to be exactly RIM's plan. "The time was right to switch to a new platform, one that will allow us to continue true to our DNA but also take it to the next level," Boulben said. "It is a major undertaking for the company. It has been two years in the making, but we are ready."
RIM's BlackBerry 10 event begins at 10:00 a.m. ET on Jan. 30, 2013. ABC News will be reporting on the news throughout the day.
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