If there ever was a diverse headline in my editorial career, I would say today’s is up there in terms of hitting the sweet spot. You have to be living in a man cave (note Harrybbb's technologically advanced man cave at right) without any modern technology to know that the BlackBerry 10 smartphone was released simultaneously around the world today. In addition, the former company known as RIM (Research in Motion) officially renamed and rebranded itself simply as BlackBerry.
It’s true that the introduction of the new BlackBerry 10 was not a surprise since the tech world has been buzzing about the launch for months; not to mention the leaked images of the devices that have cropped up on the Web. While I didn’t know that RIM was changing its name to BlackBerry, it really wasn’t a total shock to me, since it just makes good business and branding sense. However, I was floored to hear that BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins, appointed Grammy Award winning musician Alicia Keys as the company’s new Global Creative Director. I wasn’t sure if this was just another corporate celebrity gimmick, but Keys actually showed up to the launch event in New York City this morning to meet and greet with attendees during the press conference. For more on Alicia’s take, check out a Q&A conducted with Alicia by our good friend Ramon Ray of SmallBizTechnology.com. My next question is: “Will Alicia have a corner office at BlackBerry’s Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, headquarters, or will she work remotely as she kicks off her world tour this year?
Moving on to the actual phones, Harrybbb and I were able to remotely view the live event in New York City via CNET’s live streamed video. As I sat in my home office in New Jersey, and Harry in his “man cave” on Bainbridge Island, WA, we were both eager to hear from Heins on what the new phones would be featuring. We already received a brief preview last week when I spoke with Bryan Lee, BlackBerry’s senior director, US B2B and Channel Sales, so now we wanted to see all of the highlights in real time.
Once Heins made the announcement regarding the corporate name change, he got down to business, introducing the two new models of the smartphone—the BlackBerry Z10 and Q10. The z10 is an all-touch device, with the Q10 featuring the traditional physical keyboard, which many current and former BlackBerry users grew so accustomed to. I will have to say that since switching to an iPhone more than one year ago, there are times when I do miss the keyboard and being able to type with both thumbs…maybe one of these devices is in my near future, as I’m due for an upgrade from Sprint?
After introducing the devices with lights, fanfare and theatrical images, Heins then gave the floor to Vivek Bhardwaj, BlackBerry’s head of software portfolio. Bhardwaj took it away, and provided the press with a quick demo of all of the device’s new features. This included such supposed game-changers as BlackBerry Hub, BlackBerry Peek and BlackBerry Balance. With BlackBerry Peek, you can complete simultaneous tasks such as checking email while watching a video, Bhardwaj noted. He also discussed how BlackBerry Hub was designed to allow the user to manage communications and contacts, rather than having to close in and out of apps, and constantly hitting the home button to get out. It's about flow, Bhardwaj said.
BlackBerry Balance is also a new feature appearing on the Z10 and Q10 smartphones. With this new function, users can easily separate and secure work applications and data from personal content on BlackBerry devices. “The best thing about BlackBerry Balance is the security and privacy in a single user experience,” Bhardwaj said. “Personal apps are available all the time, and work apps are only available when the user switched to the corporate profile.”
Bhardwaj also touched on yet another feature unique to the BB 10, which is BlackBerry Remember, which combines memos, tasks and much more into a single experience. It helps the user organize and manage information on your smartphone around projects or ideas, letting you collect content such as websites, emails, photos, documents, and other files, and then like a To-Do list, lets you create tasks, assign due dates, and track your progress. For instance, if your BlackBerry 10 smartphone is set up with a work account, your Microsoft Outlook Tasks will automatically be wirelessly synced with BlackBerry Remember. If you have configured an Evernote account with your smartphone, BlackBerry Remember will sync Evernote workbooks as well.
Regarding availability in the U.S., Heins said that both BlackBerry 10 models will be offered by the company’s main carriers, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon at a starting price of $199. With that also comes the user’s willingness to sign a three-year contract. Regarding release dates, those in the U.K., can get their new devices as early as today. Canadians can purchase next week on Feb. 5. For those of us on the U.S., we will have to wait until at least mid-March.
With the mid-March drop date of the BlackBerry 10, that will give me enough time to decide if I will take advantage of my Sprint upgrade by sticking with Apple and going with the iPhone 5, or will I go back to BlackBerry and try out the 10? Stay tuned, and check back here, and I will be sure to let you all know!
Also, for a quick comparison on the major smartphones currently available, link up here to this cool graphic I saw today on The Wall Street Journal’s Web site.