RIM’s big sink or swim moment finally arrived today, with its new touch screen Z10 and its physical keyboard brother, Q10, being unveiled. Thorsten Heins took his best shot at having a Steve Jobs impact, as the Canadian OEM’s CEO took the stage at an event in New York, dubbed the “BlackBerry Experience.” He started by announcing the company would shed the RIM name and simply go by BlackBerry from now on.
“It is one brand,” said Heins. “It is one promise.”
Following a lengthy build-up featuring a fairly cheesy host, a rapper who couldn’t sleep until BB10 launched and a diehard fan, who wouldn’t cut his hair until the launch, having his ponytail chopped off. Finally, the wait was over.
The Z10 and the Q10 rose up from the stage. Heins said he expected the Z10 would be available in the U.S. in March. He also announced a new role of Creative Director, which he surprisingly said would be taken on by singer Alicia Keys.
“Today is actually not the finish line,” said Heins. “It’s the starting line.”
Heins went on reminisce how BlackBerry had witnessed the industry move from narrowband to broadband and from analog to digital.
“We intend to move the industry from mobile communication to mobile computing,” said Heins.
That computing seemed to be handled well by the Z10, which flipped around BlackBerry 10 smoothly throughout the event.
The Z10 showed up with a 4.2 inch screen boasting 356 ppi. As early leaked images suggested, it’s a sleek, sturdy-looking slab. The Q10, maintaining BlackBerry’s treasured physical keyboard, showed up with a 3.1 inch screen.
Based on speculation leading up to the launch, the phones did not disappoint. With all the sneak peeks, early videos and genuine excitement around it, the hugely revised OS and UI of BlackBerry 10 didn’t fail on first official view either. All the fabled features were there: the integrated BlackBerry Hub, the Flow, the smart camera, the even smarter touch screen keyboard and Balance, the innovative system for separating work and personal info within the phone. Vivek Bhardwaj, head of software portfolio, was there to show them off.
Bhardwaj announced an update to BB Messenger, a video calling feature, that he demonstrated right away with his friend in London, who then in turn demonstrated the screen sharing feature of the video call.
He also showed off Story Maker, a video editing app he used to easily combine photos and videos with music into a multimedia show. He even added titles and credits.
Martin Mallick, VP of Business Development, then took the stage to hype the new content in the app store, BlackBerry World. He was excited to announce Skype, Angry Birds and lots more as being part of 70,000 now live in BB’s store.
The whole event served as a good introduction to the platform, devices and ecosystem, but with so many interested parties finally getting a chance to go hands-on with BlackBerry 10, it won’t be long before we see if it’s all it’s cracked up to be.
BlackBerry’s stock—which might be stuck with the old name the company just shook off—was still down this morning as the launch was wrapping up.