BLACKBERRY LIVE REPORT: So far, CEO Thorsten Heins has delivered what he promised and today he announced the launch of a new smart phone, the Q5. At this week’s conference attendees want to know what else is coming to help shore up the company

BlackBerry is on a roll
ORLANDO – Research In Motion officially opens its annual BlackBerry conference here today on a roll with the launch of a new keyboard-equipped smart phone called the Q5 just a few weeks after the release having launched its Q10 smart phone and the successful debut three months ago of its Z10 all-touch handset.
 

This morning CEO Thorsten Heins is also expected to rally the troops with talk of upcoming enhancements to the BlackBerry Enterprise Services 10 management suite and expand on the possibilities of using the BlackBerry 10 operating system.

It’s been a satisfying few months for Heins, whose company has been on the edge for some time, losing customers and revenue. BB10, he has vowed, will turn things around not just because it is an operating system but because it can be a platform for other mechanisms, like cars.
 
 
The BlackBerry Q5

UPDATE: In his keynote this morning, Heins announced the Q5, a lower-priced version of the Q10 handset with a physical keyboard. However, it is for emerging markets and not for North America.

It will be available in many colors. No pricing, delivery or specifications were revealed.

Other that stating BlackBerry Enteprise Service 10.1 is now available, which lets Z10 users access Skype, there were no other new products.

Heins was proud of the company’s improvement in finances and product.”We have reached solid ground with this company,” he declared.

(Thorsten Heins, right, at BlackBerry Live solutions centre. ITWC photo)
 
Yet the fact is we are still many months away from knowing for certain whether the new platform will stabilize the company. After all, the new handsets have only just come out and are still unavailable in some countries.

Still, there are some rumblings of trouble. Financial analyst Michael Walkley of Canaccord Genuity says his firm’s latest monthly checks among retailers suggests U.S. demand for Z10 has “really slowed” from the initial rush. – although initial Q10 demand is strong.

He estimates the Z10 is selling between 20,000 and 30,000 handsets a week in the U.S., which is “pretty small” for the size of the market.

It’s the Q10, he believes, that will be BlackBerry’s driver in the enterprise among die-hard staffers who have to have a physical keyboard.

But its price to some is a barrier, so a lower-priced model – the rumoured R10 – may help budget-conscious organizations to buy.

To be a successful global handset supplier, he warned, a manufacturer has to have scale and do well in the U.S.

On the other hand, Yankee Group industry analyst Carl Howe casts a jaundiced eye on financial analyst and their smart phone numbers. Generally, he says, they have few scientific surveys. Samsung Electronics, he notes, doesn’t report shipments so all numbers have to be estimates.

He gives Heins high marks for delivering what he promised – to not release handsets until they are ready. Now, he says, the company has “a decent future.”

“Our call is BlackBerry will be (the) number three” handset maker, he added.

Last night Heins toured of the solutions centre, where partners of RIM (soon to be legally called BlackBerry) are showing off apps and services around the platform.

(Some showed more than apps. The National Hockey League brought along the Stanley Cup as it touted its NHL app for BlackBerry).
(Attendees lined up up to be photographed with cup. ITWC photo)
Understandably, for companies that have a financial interest in RIM’s success, they are hopeful if not confident that BB10 will be a winner.

One of them is Marco Gocht, CEO of German-based ISEC7 Group, which offers mobile-related services to organizations in seven countries.

In the past 10 weeks his firm has done 74 BlackBerry Enterprise Server to BES 10 migrations, he noted, and is well on is way to 100. The surprise is that its SMBs, not enterprises, that are in a rush.

In part a sign of business confident in the future of the platform, which not only manages BlackBerry devices but also Android and Apple iOS devices as well.
 
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The conference is expected to hear more about BES 10 and the upcoming Secure Workspace feature, announced earlier this year, which will give some of the more secure features of the BlackBerry platform to other devices. In an era of BYOD policies with mixed device environments, that’s a card BlackBerry can play to its advantage.

At another stand Andrew Taylor, vice-president of business development for DMI Inc., which sells enterprise mobility services in a number of countries including Canada, declares the company “bullish” on BB 10.

“We believe demand will continue to increase, especially when (customers) give the device a shot.”

The only fly in the ointment, he adds, is BlackBerry [TSX: BB] hasn’t been fast to market with expanded features in BES 10 like Secure Work Space.

American wireless carriers aren’t putting the same marketing muscle behind the Z10/Q10 as they did for earlier BlackBerry models, he adds.

In short, the launch of the first generation of BB10 handsets has been a modest success from the evidence so far.
Thorsten Heins will be the first to admit there’s a long road ahead for the company’s renaissance.
 
What many attendees want to know is what BlackBerry’s next steps on that journey will be.
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