RIM's Gamble: All-in on BlackBerry 10

RIM unleashes BlackBerry 10 with two new devices, the BlackBerry Q10 and Z10, and a few surprises: RIM has changed its corporate name to "BlackBerry" as it seeks to refocus its efforts on flagship products that will be its namesake in the smartphone battleground. But is BlackBerry 10 ready to do battle?

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blackberry_z10_q10Today Research in Motion Inc. bet it all on BlackBerry 10. With the launch of two new flagship phones, the BlackBerry Q10 and Z10 (pictured), with and without a keyboard, respectively, RIM has officially changed it's name to "BlackBerry," embodying the ethos and focus of the company for the foreseeable future.

It's a big gamble, but the bold move shows there's confidence in the BlackBerry 10 platform, and truthfully, that confidence is not misplaced. BlackBerry 10 offers many unique features business users will clamor for, including BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) with voice and video chat, plus phone screen sharing, a smart feature for business users that need to share information in more practical ways.

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BlackBerry has also built active storage capabilities into the phone, allowing a user to get at a glance information on their usage. SD cards are par for the course -- the real gem is native 3rd party cloud storage integration with Box (formerly Box.net), Dropbox and a few others. There's also BlackBerry Balance, a new user management feature which keeps work-related items locked and hidden, in addition to allowing multiple user profiles for a single device -- think of switching from work mode to a kid-proof profile.

BlackBerry also teamed up with content providers and app developers to create a full ecosystem of apps and media, much like the iTunes store works today. BlackBerry said it worked tirelessly with partners and developers to bring over 70,000 quality applications to the BlackBerry App World store and showcased everything from Angry Birds, to major business software apps like those from BMC Software Inc, SAP AG and even Cisco Systems Inc's WebEx. Skype, alongside every major social networking platform (with the notable exception of Instagram) is also on board.

Finally, BlackBerry has anointed Alicia Keys as "global creative director," in an effort for BlackBerry to have a more direct connection to what is svelte and sexy in the tech world. The move has raised some eyebrows, considering Alicia Keys is a fan of Instagram and a well-known iPhone user. It also brings into question who BlackBerry is targeting with their business-focused phones.

Whether or not it's a publicity stunt or a long term evolution, BlackBerry does have a well outfitted product to ship. When BlackBerry 10 devices finally hit shelves, success will determined through its mix of form, functionality and app accessibility. With the arguably biggest hurdle of a robust app library (and developers) seemingly accomplished, BlackBerry 10's last struggle will be proving the whole package -- from device hardware to operating system -- can stand up to what what is expected of a smartphone in today's unforgiving world.

Initial reviews of the BlackBerry Z10 show a well polished device, but might not have enough oomph to stand out in an already crowded market. The biggest concern was that battery life left something to be desired -- that could dent BlackBerry's business-centric reputation, but with a user-replaceable battery, that issue may be moot. Ultimately, the world will vote with their wallets when the BlackBerry Z10 and Q10 go live sometime in March.

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