May 02, 2012

[For more on the BlackBerry's decline, see BlackBerry, From Wall Street Staple To Relic Of The Past?.

Research In Motion Ltd.'s CEO gave a sneak preview of the new BlackBerry the company hopes will reverse its rapid decline - but response from those who saw it was tepid at best.

RIM has promised to deliver the next-generation BlackBerrys later this year, although this is a complicated project since the new smartphones will run on a new operating system, the Wall Street Journal notes.

At RIM’s annual conference, attendees caught a glimpse of what the new BlackBerry will look like, although CEO Thorsten Heins didn't actually show the phone or even specify a date for its release. What he did do was give away thousands of prototypes to software developers.

But applause from the crowd was muted, in stark contrast to whenever RIM’s nemesis Apple unveils a new product.

From the Wall Street Journal:

RIM is hoping to heat up developers' lukewarm embrace of the operating system that will power the new phone. Mr. Heins, however, seemed to struggle at times to rally his audience. Applause was mild as he walked through a few features on the prototype. Other features, including predictive touch-screen typing features and a camera tool that allows users to select photos taken split-seconds apart to edit pictures, drew a heartier response.

While some analysts said the prototype looked like it held promise, many investors were disappointed with the lack of details from the company about the actual phone—including a specific launch date.

RIM's share of the U.S. smartphone market fell to 12.3% at the end of March, down from 16% just three months earlier, according to Research firm comScore. Experts say the company’s decline is largely due to the fact that while it popularized mobile email, it failed to keep up with the move to touchscreen phones. Its PlayBook tablet also failed to impress.

Still, some previous BlackBerry fans say the real problem is a lack of apps – and a failure to keep the keyboard which loyal users really like and which differentiates it from its competitors.

“I'm afraid that Blackberry hasn't a clue. The failure that is the Playbook tablet reveals all: A lack of a core list of A-list apps. It's all about the apps, Blackberry, and if you haven't learned that yet, then you might as well take what cash you have left in the bank, distribute it to your investors, and close the doors,” one WSJ reader commented.

“Oh, and moving from a physical keyboard to a virtual one? OK, if that's ONE member of your new line, but it's a bad bad move if you intend to kill the physical keyboard entirely in your flagship offerings. It's one feature that keeps some people loyal,” he added.

Another wrote: “I hear they are bringing back stereo cassettes.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Melanie Rodier has worked as a print and broadcast journalist for over 10 years, covering business and finance, general news, and film trade news. Prior to joining Wall Street & Technology in ...