By Bob Vrbanac
Kitchener Post staff
Wednesday’s launch of the newest BlackBerry lineup had all the trappings that you would expect: Enthusiastic crowds, exotic locations and even a surprise guest — Grammy-award winning singer Alicia Keys.
Thorsten Heins, the CEO of Research in Motion, demonstrated the products, which include a new operating system and two new BlackBerrys — one with a physical keyboard and one without. While his presentation was made in New York, it was broadcast live to a Kitchener launch party at the Tannery that included local government, business and community leaders.
Over the past two years, RIM has struggled to hold on to market share as Samsung and Apple have dominated the smart-phone sector. But at the Kitchener launch, many expressed a newly sparked excitement.
According to Heins, RIM — which will change its name to BlackBerry on Monday — is just scratching the surface of mobile computing potential. He set his sights higher than on his fellow smart-phone makers, targeting the demise of the laptop and aiming to create an individual-centred Internet experience for users of the new BlackBerry 10. Eventually Heins hopes to connect users to their cars, homes and more.
“We’ve been on a journey of transformation,” said Heins.
“A journey not only to transform our business and our brand, but one which I truly believe will transform mobile communications into mobile computing.”
“. . . This will be what it means to be connected in the future.”
That lofty goal was announced along with a name change for Research in Motion. From now on the company will be known as BlackBerry, acknowledging the single focus on mobile innovation.
“It is one brand and one promise,” Heins said. “We have reinvented this company and we want to reflect this in our brand, and we are now, more than ever, united by our vision of mobile computing.”
Heins took the wraps off the device that has already been released to developers and other connected users.
There are more than 70,000 applications available for the first-generation device.
The BlackBerry Z10, a touch screen model, will be available in Canada starting Feb. 5 at about $150 with the signing of three-year contract.
The BlackBerry Q10 will feature the full keyboard that was a mainstay for many loyal BlackBerry fans.
Heins demonstrated the BlackBerry Hub, which connects the user to social media, email, phone and voicemail in one place.
Another new feature is the BlackBerry 10 Balance, which allows separation of work and personal use on the device.
It eliminates the need for more than one device and works with the security features that the company originally made their name on, according to Heins.
“Today is not the finish line, it’s the starting line,” he said. “We are dedicated to the boundless opportunities of mobile computing.”
The hour-long presentation was punctuated by Alicia Keys’ New York appearance. The Grammy winner was named the company’s new creative director.
She is also featured in a new ad campaign that will be launched at Sunday’s Super Bowl game, where she will also be performing.
At the end of the global broadcast, RIM’s director of government relations, Morgan Elliot, thanked the local community for its support.
“With the support we get from the community we’re really humbled and really inspired, and have been reinvigorated by your support,” said Elliott.
“There are good things to come, and thank you for sticking with us.”
Kitchener Mayor Carl Zehr said was impressed by the new system’s ease of use and how it enhanced the user’s experience.
“It’s beyond what I expected it to be. It will take the company on a new trajectory, and I have great hope for the BlackBerry being around for many years to come,” said Zehr.
“And it was important to have a local launch to help sustain the buzz that was building up to this.”
The Kitchener BlackBerry launch day ended with a rainy skating party at Civic Square.