BlackBerry’s maker unveiled a new operating system and a new line of phones Wednesday, along with a new corporate name, with the hope of restoring its products’ status as a symbol of executive cool.
Analysts, technology reviewers and app developers with advance access to the BlackBerry Z10 and the BlackBerry 10 operating system have said it is the company’s first competitive touch-screen phone. But BlackBerry 10 arrives long after Apple’s iPhone and phones using Google’s Android operating system have come to dominate the smartphone market that the BlackBerry effectively created.
To emphasize the changes brought by the new operating system, Thorsten Heins, who took over as chief executive a year ago, said the company, known until now as Research in Motion, had adopted BlackBerry as its corporate name. Its Nasdaq trading symbol will become BBRY, and it will trade as BB in Toronto.
In addition to the BlackBerry Z10 phone, there will be a second model, the Q10, that includes one of the line’s signature physical keyboards.
Verizon Wireless announced that it would price the Z10 at $200 with a two-year contract. It will also be carried by AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile.
“Today represents a new day in the history of BlackBerry,” Heins said. “These BlackBerry 10 devices are absolutely the best typing experiences in the industry.”
BlackBerry said the Z10 would be available in the United States in March.
Physically, the Z10 resembles an iPhone 5 with its corners snipped off.
But unlike its competitors, the Z10 lacks a button to take users back to a home page and relies entirely on users swiping their fingers across the 4.2-inch screen from different directions to summon features or menus.
While the Z10 lacks a physical keyboard, the main attraction of BlackBerrys for many current users, the company said that it had developed software which should alleviate some of the inadequacies of on-screen typing. According to BlackBerry, its software studies users’ common typing mistakes over time and then starts automatically correcting them. It will also build up a list of commonly used words and offer them as suggestions.
BlackBerry said Wednesday that more than 70,000 BlackBerry 10 apps were now available.
For corporate and government users, BlackBerry 10 server software will allow them to divide employees’ BlackBerry 10 phones into separate work and personal spheres and give IT managers complete control over the former.