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tech in the spotlight

BlackBerry Planning A Return to Greatness

Posted by Mark J. Miller on November 14, 2012 05:58 PM

Slightly more than a decade ago, the BlackBerry ruled the American corporate landscape and acquired the nickname CrackBerry. Every executive seemed to have one in tow so they could covertly send messages while they were in meetings in exotic locales, multitasking thumbs trained to text at blinding speed.

Times have changed. Most executives aren’t traveling to exotic locales anymore and everybody and their second cousin (twice removed) has a Smartphone. And most of those people touting Smartphones around town don’t own BB devices.

Research in Motion currently only owns 9.5 percent of the market, according to Boy Genius Report, but the company would love to return to its old days of dominance. RIM will make its attempt at such a feat on Jan. 30 when it will show off its new BlackBerry 10 platform and the first devices to run the operating system to consumers, following months of meetings with carriers (and influentials such as the gentlemen above) to firm up distribution deals.

Of course, if BlackBerry 10 bombs … well, that could be a deathblow to RIM. So, hey — no pressure, CEO Thorsten Heins. The 54-year-old isn’t aiming to be the best just yet, saying that the next version of his phone gives the company “a clear shot at being number three” behind the iPhone and Android. (Sorry, Windows Phone 8.)

So it's a bit of a social media coup that the Canadian phone-maker got a key tweeted endorsement from British actor Stephen Fry, whose digital dalliances and tech column for the Guardian have made him a social media influencer when it comes to brands (with more than 5 million followers on Twitter) par extraordinaire.

The word from HuffPo is that this new phone will have “an improved touchscreen interface, mapping application, on-screen keyboard and other enhancements,” and hopefully it won't be a case of too little, too late. RIM COO Kristin Tear says that the actual BlackBerry phones should be available soon after January 30 and won’t suffer the same fate as the BlackBerry tablet PlayBook launch, which had it on the market months after it was introduced, according to TechCrunch.

The New York Times notes that in a presentation of the product given to some of its editorial staff this week, “the company is banking on the phone’s really catching on with corporate information technology departments.”

Frank Boulben, RIM’s chief marketing officer, told the Times that he is expecting companies to “return to selecting their employees’ phones to reduce technology support costs.” So RIM is going after that corporate business hard and is selling the idea that BlackBerry 10s could replace desktop and laptop computers in offices and become building passes for employees as well.

You can bet Heins and the 9,500 other employees of RIM are hoping he’s right.

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