BlackBerry-maker CEO plots phone's revival

Research in Motion chief executive Thorsten Heins told

Research in Motion chief executive Thorsten Heins told an audience at the BlackBerry Jam forum in San Jose, Calif., on Tuesday that app development was key to a revival of the phone’s prominence. (Sept. 25, 2012) (Credit: Getty)

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SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Research In Motion chief executive Thorsten Heins is promising to restore the BlackBerry phone's stature as a trailblazing device even as many investors fret about its potential demise.

Heins took the stage Tuesday at a conference for mobile applications developers to rally support for the upcoming release of BlackBerry 10, a new operating system that Research In Motion Ltd. is touting as its salvation after years of blundering wiped out some $80 billion in shareholder wealth.

With BlackBerry 10 still months away from hitting the market, Tuesday's gathering in San Jose felt more like a revival meeting than a product preview. RIM, based in Canada, has been laying off thousands of workers to offset mounting losses after being outmaneuvered by iPhone maker Apple Inc. and other phone makers relying on Google Inc.'s Android software.

"We recognize the need for change," said Heins, who was promoted to CEO eight months ago as RIM's troubles deepened. "There is a new energy and a lot of fighting spirit at RIM."

RIM aimed its message of hope and resilience at an audience of app developers because those programmers hold one of the biggest keys to its future. The success of the iPhone has proved that a broad selection of apps that make smartphones more fun and convenient can help drive sales.

One of the BlackBerry's biggest shortcomings has been its relatively small inventory of apps. RIM says BlackBerry has about 105,000 apps, which pales next to the more than 700,000 apps in Apple's iTunes store. Google's Play store is stocked with more than 600,000 apps.

RIM is wooing app developers by offering them more tools to work with on BlackBerry 10 and offering financial incentives to convince them they will make money on the new platform. The company told developers Tuesday that they can start submitting BlackBerry 10 apps for approval on Oct. 10.

RIM's new software won't be available during the holiday shopping season, costing the company more sales during a period when millions of people are expected to be snapping up the latest phones and devices.

Despite RIM's missteps, the BlackBerry still commands a huge following with 80 million subscribers. That's up from 78 million in early June.

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