Five years and roughly 80% too late, Research in Motion (RIMM) has officially attempted to reemerge in the overcrowded smartphone business. At the same, the once dominant mobile device maker from Waterloo, Ontario has also decided to rebrand, adopting the ubiquitous name of its primary product, Blackberry, and will be listed under the ticker symbol "BBRY."
As for the new phone, known as the BB10, it will be available in touch screen or traditional QWERTY keyboard models and carries a host of familiar features as well as a few new ones. The phones are expected to be available in March through the major wireless carriers.
Ultimately, there's more riding on this product launch than simply the success of a new device. Even the company's marketing materials referred to the launch as "a starting point, not a finish line" given the do-or-die stakes that are in play for a business that is about one-tenth the size it once was.
"Is this the end of the beginning, or the beginning of the end," quipped Dave Garrity, principal with GVA Research in the attached video. For him, the list of businesses which "successfully shrunk themselves to prosperity" is short, and thus, he has serious misgivings about Blackberry's future.
One thing that we both agree on is that the company's German-born CEO Thorsten Heins was miscast in the role of pitchman for a new device designed to appeal to a young audience, and his repeated remark "isn't this exciting?" only underscored how stiff and scripted this event was, as well as how truly unique Apple's (AAPL) Steve Jobs was.
That said, Blackberry still has its stable of believers and loyal users, many of whom are expected to re-up once again with the company they've stuck with for all these years. Only time will tell how many of Blackberry's 80 million existing users will migrate to the new BB10 platform and how many will defect, but it is safe to say expectations are very low with Wall Street analysts who see the company posting losses for the next three years.
But that's precisely why some investors, such as Eric Jackson of Ironfire Capital, like the stock and think if only one-third of those existing subscribers buy the new phone, the company could earn $4 to $5 per share next year.
In the meantime, the world now has another smartphone to chose from that Blackberry says has been "re-designed, re-engineered and re-invented." Now comes the hard part; getting the rest of us to believe that.