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RIM To Unveil BlackBerry Makeover


And there was a time only a few years ago when the BlackBerry was the undisputed champion of the smartphone market - a title now held by Apple's iPhone or the Samsung Galaxy. After years of falling sales and strategic blunders, the company that many have already written off, is unveiling a new device today. It's called the BlackBerry Z10.

And to talk about whether it can save the company, we called Rich Jaroslovsky. He's technology commentator for Bloomberg News.

Glad to have you on the show again.


MONTAGNE: Good morning. BlackBerry now is really pulling out all the stops with this new smartphone. I mean we know that, partly because they're even airing an ad during the Super Bowl. Is this a kind of confidence or desperation?

JAROSLOVSKY: A little bit of both and probably in the opposite order. They are desperate. This one has to be a hit. They have to have done it right because the company otherwise is basically toast. But they also, I think, are pretty confident about this. They've been working on this for quite a while. They're unveiling a new operating system to go with it that they feel very good about. So I think it's a little bit of both.

MONTAGNE: All right. Well, tell us what you know about this new device.

JAROSLOVSKY: Well, the new phone that's being unveiled today is a touch screen. From what we've seen of it, it looks like an iPhone 5, but it's somewhat different. Among other things, you've got a user replaceable battery. The new operating system works more on gestures, finger swipes, than it does on taps. And it's got a lot of neat features that neither iPhone or Android phones have, like improved multitasking, the ability to look or do two things at one time. And there's something called the BlackBerry Hub, which is sort of a universal inbox for everything from email to tweets.

MONTAGNE: And one of BlackBerry's problems has been with apps. It has fewer than Apple, or other Android phones. Is that something that this new BlackBerry Z10 will overcome?

JAROSLOVSKY: Well, it's going to be difficult for them for to compete on that score. There are hundreds and hundreds of thousands of Android apps and iPhone apps. There's less than 100,000 for BlackBerry. But on the other hand, you know, their hope is how many apps do you really need? If the phone does everything else that you need, if it appeals to your company IT department as well as to your personal side, they're kind of hoping that, you know, you'll find the main apps that you need and maybe give a little bit of a pass on the app front.

MONTAGNE: You know, given their problems and their loss of market, what market are they targeting with this new phone?

JAROSLOVSKY: Well, it's interesting. You know, BlackBerry traditionally has appealed to the corporate user. And there are features in this phone, for example, an ability to set up two separate identities, one of which you control and one of which your company controls and keeping all the information on the two separate that really are designed to appeal to corporate users. But at the same token, I think BlackBerry knows that if they don't come up with something that's really appealing to individual consumers, there's no way that they're going to make it. They've got to have something that covers both bases.

MONTAGNE: Which gets us to the really big question for BlackBerry, do you think this new device has a shot at preserving its share of the market?

JAROSLOVSKY: From what I've seen of it, I think it's got a shot. They once were the kings of the hill. They clearly are no longer. And they've really tried to do something here that's not just a me-too phone, but something that has some unique distinctive characteristics. And particularly the appeal to business users, I think, is something that they were very keen on preserving.

MONTAGNE: Rich Jaroslovsky is technology commentator for Bloomberg News. Thanks for joining us.

JAROSLOVSKY: Thanks so much for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.