Phone wars: will BB survive?

In an effort to revive its identity, the company formerly known as Research in Motion changed its name to BlackBerry on January 30. The change came as a response to the competition from technology companies such as Apple and Samsung, whose names are reflected in their products.

To go along with the name change, BlackBerry’s new operating system, BB10, is rumoured to be pivotal in deciding whether BlackBerry can catch up with its competition. The new BB10 mobile devices—the Z10 with a full touchscreen and the Q10 with a QWERTY keyboard and touchscreen—were released in Canada and the UK on February 5. Analyst reports say that London shops were sold out of BB10 devices within 20 minutes of opening, and devices at one retail location in Toronto were sold out by 11 a.m.

BlackBerry’s stock value rose following the news—an early sign if not a definite one that BlackBerry is getting back on track. It’s worth mentioning that the BB10 devices sold faster than the Nokia Lumia 920 Windows phone did at its launch.

The new operating system features real-time multitasking that should put it on par with recent mobile phone technology, as well as “BlackBerry Hub”, an application that integrates social networks into the OS alongside native BlackBerry applications like email, contacts, calendar, and the infamous BlackBerry Messenger. The devices were also built out of materials selected with the intent of making them more durable and more comfortable to hold than the competitor’s.

These are good developments, but why is BlackBerry so late to the party? One factor that prevented the company from keeping pace with the competition was its policy of secrecy. BlackBerry was extremely reluctant to share its technology with mobile app developers outside the company, fearing that such intimate partnerships would compromise its business secrets, especially the data encryption that protects their devices from hacking. Instead, BlackBerry hired its own software engineers, who didn’t always have enough experience with the companies they were to develop apps for, such as Facebook.

Now, BlackBerry has adopted a business model that allows for partnership with engineers associated with other companies. This is good news for customers, who have reportedly found BlackBerry’s proprietary apps and features lacking compared to those of other smartphones.

The coming months will reveal whether BlackBerry can reclaim its place among the top tech companies.

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