BlackBerry makeover set to make its debut

The maker of the BlackBerry smartphone is promising a speedier device, a superb typing experience and the ability to keep work and personal identities separate on the same phone. It's the fruit of a crucial, long-overdue makeover for the Canadian company.

Thorsten Heins, CEO of Research In Motion Ltd., will show off the first phone with the new BlackBerry 10 system in New York Wednesday. A marketing campaign that includes a Super Bowl ad will accompany the long-anticipated debut.

Repeated delays have left the once-pioneering BlackBerry an afterthought in the shadow of Apple's trendsetting iPhone and Google's Android-driven devices.

Now, there's some optimism. Previews of the software have gotten favorable reviews on blogs. Financial analysts are starting to see some slight room for a comeback. RIM's stock has nearly tripled to $16.18 from a nine-year low in September, though it's still nearly 90 percent below its 2008 peak of $147.

Most analysts consider a BlackBerry 10 success to be crucial for the company's long-term viability.

"The old models are becoming obsolete quickly," BGC Financial analyst Colin Gillis said. "There is still a big user base but it's going to rotate off. The question is: Where do they rotate to?"

The BlackBerry, pioneered in 1999, has been the dominant smartphone for on-the-go business people. Corporate information-technology managers like the phones because they're relatively secure and easy to manage. Many employees loved them because of physical keyboards that were easier to type on than the touch-screen iPhone.

President Barack Obama couldn't bear to part with it when he took office. Oprah Winfrey declared it one of her "favorite things."

People got so addicted that the device was nicknamed "the CrackBerry." But when the iPhone came out in 2007, it showed that phones can do much more than email and phone calls.

RIM redesigned the system to embrace the multimedia, apps and touch-screen experience prevalent today.

The new operating system promises better multi-tasking than the iPhone or Android. Simply swipe a finger across the phone's display screen to switch to another program.

All emails and notifications from such applications as Twitter and Facebook go to the BlackBerry Hub, a nerve center accessible with a finger swipe even if you have another application open. One can peek into it and open an email, or return to the previous application without opening the email.

The BlackBerry's touch-screen keyboard promises to learn a user's writing style and suggest words and phrases to complete, going beyond typo corrections offered by rivals.

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