By: Gigaom
BlackBerry 10 smartphone launch gets a few cheers, a bunch of jeers and a lot of meh
Research In Motion -- which has renamed itself BlackBerry -- launched its new smartphones at a star-studded event in New York, but responses to the new devices ranged from sharply critical to "ho hum," and that could be lethal.

Research In Motion, the perennial also-ran of the smartphone world, took a bold step towards reversing its declining fortunes on Wednesday, with the launch of its new BlackBerry 10 line of phones — and a surprising re-branding of the company that will see it become BlackBerry instead of RIM. Amid the deluge of live-blogs (including our own, from Kevin Tofel in New York) and embargoed reviews, the reaction to the launch included some expressions of grudging respect for its new products, but also a lot of “where was this two years ago” responses.

On the positive side, a number of those watching either live or on a livestream said that BlackBerry had caught up and possibly even surpassed other platforms like Apple’s iOS, Android and Windows 8, and that the company had a fighting chance of remaining relevant:

I am actually genuinely excited about BlackBerry 10. It looks like it has potential.

Tom Warren (@tomwarren) January 30, 2013

.@Pogue on the BlackBerry Z10: "It's lovely, fast and efficient, bristling with fresh, useful ideas"

The New York Times (@nytimes) January 30, 2013

#BB10 definitely meets needs for launch. Momentum, execution and of course perception will be key.

Michael Gartenberg (@Gartenberg) January 30, 2013

I said it before and I'll say it again: If RIM/Blackberry is indeed on its last legs, it's going to go down swinging.

Arik Hesseldahl (@ahess247) January 30, 2013

At least one enthusiastic BlackBerry supporter even went so far as to say that Steve Jobs would be jealous of what the company had announced:

Can someone check Steve Jobs' grave? This #BlackBerry10 is looking like a major threat to $AAPL. Steve might be spinning right now.

Michael Hainsworth (@hainsworthtv) January 30, 2013

But there were just as many — or more — responses that criticized BlackBerry for being late to the party, and for only now coming up with the kinds of features and apps that iPhone and even Android have had for some time. CNN Money said that the Z10 was the kind of phone BlackBerry “should have made years ago” and that while there were some good ideas in it, “Everything still feels a generation behind.”

BB10 pitch so far: "You like Instagram? FaceTime? That Apple collage-maker thing? We have stuff like that now!"

Omar El Akkad (@omarelakkad) January 30, 2013

Breaking news: The Titanic has just been renamed Blackberry

Cathleen Ritt (@CathleenRitt) January 30, 2013

congratulations blackberry on creating an operating system that is competitive with Palm OS

Ed Zitron (@edzitron) January 30, 2013

RIM will announce today that they’re almost feature parity to 2010 with other major smartphone platforms.

Glenn Fleishman (@GlennF) January 30, 2013


In his review, Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal and All Things Digital said that the company had “reinvented itself” with its new devices, but also called it a “work in progress” and noted that the new phones lacked some of the features — and many of the apps — that users of other platforms were used to:

“Overall, it worked fine in my tests, but I found it a work in progress. I liked some things a lot, including the way RIM has designed its new virtual keyboard and camera, and the way it gathers all your messages into a single Hub. But it will launch with just a fraction of the apps available from its competitors, and is missing some very popular titles…. and there are other missing or lagging features.”

One of the early awkward notes in the presentation — at least for some attendees and observers — was a public thank-you from CEO Thorsten Heins to former co-CEOs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis:

"Thank you for guiding us in the future" says RIM's CEO to the ex-co-CEO that drove it into the ground.… #BlackBerry10

Ross Miller (@ohnorosco) January 30, 2013

Only RIM would salute the two gentlemen who put the company in a desperate hole at the event designed to get out of that hole.

Tom Krazit (@tomkrazit) January 30, 2013

The renaming of the company sparked some positive comments, but also drew a lot of snarky responses about how no one really knew what Research In Motion stood for anyway — and also a comment about how much pressure the name change puts on the company to succeed with the BlackBerry revamp:

Research in Motion has renamed itself Blackberry. Everyone outside Waterloo: "You mean Blackberry isn't their name?"

David J. MacKay (@DavidJMacKay) January 30, 2013

So the guys who joked that RIM would die before it launched BlackBerry 10 were technically accurate.

Vlad Savov (@vladsavov) January 30, 2013

RIM is now just BlackBerry. Less confusing! Also a reminder if the new phones don't work the company is dead. They have nothing else.

John Herrman (@jwherrman) January 30, 2013

The RIM rebranding news is arguably a bigger deal than either individual device.

nilay patel (@reckless) January 30, 2013

Funny, when Apple Computer -> Apple, it signaled a broadening of focus/products. RIM -> BlackBerry doesn't quite make the same statement.

Jeremy Horwitz (@horwitz) January 30, 2013

Then it was on to the details of the two handsets, the Z10 and the Q10 — the former a touchscreen model and the latter featuring a QWERTY keyboard, which has been BlackBerry’s key differentiator from other smartphones for some time. After some talk about the hardware design, the company went into details about what apps would be available, and there was some optimism but also much skepticism:

@kady @thehartley Yes, whatever will we do without 457 flashlight apps?

Anthony Reinhart (@ajreinhart) January 30, 2013

…..Who the hell requires you to reboot your device when you install apps?

Armando Rodriguez (@megapenguinx) January 30, 2013

BB10 has 70,000 apps to choose from at launch. About one-tenth what you'll find on Apple/Android.

Omar El Akkad (@omarelakkad) January 30, 2013

Fun seeing BlackBerry users discover video chat seemingly for the first time. FaceTime, Google Talk and Skype would like to say hi!

Jon Fingas (@jonfingas) January 30, 2013

In a mammoth review of the touch-screen Z10, Joshua Topolsky of The Verge said that there were many things to like about it, but lots of things not to like as well — and the bottom line seemed to be a definite “meh”:

“The Z10 is a good smartphone. Frankly, it’s a better smartphone than I expected from RIM at this stage in the game. It does everything a modern phone should do, usually without hesitation. It doesn’t do everything perfectly, but it does many things — most things — reasonably well. The problem with the Z10 is that it doesn’t necessarily do anything better than any of its competition.”

Towards the end of the presentation, the BlackBerry CEO announced that singer Alicia Keys would be the company’s new “global creative director,” and like most of the other announcements by the company at the launch, this also drew a lot of snark:

Everything about this #BB10 keynote impressed me, up until the point where they jumped on the Celebrity Executive Announcement trend. Sigh.

Jon Crowley (@joncrowley) January 30, 2013

Because the celebrity creative director thing worked out so well for Polaroid and @ladygaga.

  (@joemfbrown) January 30, 2013

Appropriate Blackberry pick Alicia Keys. She was last relevant what seems like a lifetime ago too...

Luke McGee (@lukemcgee85) January 30, 2013

BlackBerry announces Alicia Keyes as its new "global creative director." I am really not sure what that means.

  (@Dan_Rowinski) January 30, 2013

So does the BlackBerry 10 launch mark the rebirth of a revitalized company, ready to take on Apple, Android and Windows for smartphone supremacy? It’s probably safe to say that view would be in the minority — and the most common response was a virtual shrug:

I give #Blackberry10 a solid meh.

Romit Mehta (@TheRomit) January 30, 2013

It’s still early days, of course, but that’s not a great harbinger of success for the company, which has so much riding on a recovery — and perhaps even more important, the stock market seemed to be shrugging its shoulders (or even frowning) at the announcement as well:

RIM stock

In his review of the Z10, New York Times technology writer David Pogue apologized for saying RIM was dead before, but still wound up sitting on the fence about whether the device would be enough to save the company:

“These days, excellence in a smartphone isn’t enough. Microsoft’s phone is terrific, too, and hardly anyone will touch it. So then: Is the delightful BlackBerry Z10 enough to save its company? Honestly? It could go either way. But this much is clear: BlackBerry is no longer an incompetent mess — and its doom is no longer assured.”

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