Back From The Dead?

Reuben is a member of The Motley Fool Blog Network -- entries represent the personal opinion of the blogger and are not formally edited.

Once the industry leader in the smartphone space, BlackBerry (NASDAQ: BBRY), which used to be known as Research in Motion, quickly fell from grace as giants Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) and Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) swooped in with innovative and desirable devices. This has left RIMM with a crumbling market position, despite some very loyal fans. The big question is if its new BlackBerry 10 operating system will turn the tide and give it a new lease on life.

Research In Motion was founded by two very strong willed men. While this worked well in getting the company off the ground and creating what was, at the time, a market moving product, it wound up costing the company its leadership role. Indeed, the BlackBerry, as the company's phones are called, was the first to allow easy and highly secure email access.

That may seem quaint in a world where texting and tweeting have taken over for email as the hot communication tool, but when the BlackBerry came out it was nothing short of revolutionary. Even the company's use of a full keyboard on the device was a big plus. However, management's insistence on sticking to that particular feature turned into a negative as Apple and Google products quickly changed what customers wanted.

The diehard attitude that got the company to the top, then, is what brought it low, in the end. After a management change, the company is looking to revamp its core product to offer a more modern option to customers. This is a make or break moment for the company.

The New Device
The BlackBerry 10, or BB10 as some are calling it, isn't a life altering advance in the smart phone space. However, it is an important modernization of the BlackBerry that happens to include some nifty new features and keeps some of the company's distinguishing traits. At the very least, it seems like a good start.

For example, the new operating system is being launched with a touch screen, something the company simply didn't pull off well before. Reviews are calling the software sleek and fast, which is good since both Apple and Google offer top-notch operating systems. These attributes, however, are just table stakes since anything less couldn't compete.

One new feature that is likely to be very well received, and perhaps push competitors to come up with similar functionality, is BlackBerry 10's ability to separate work from pleasure. BlackBerry Balance addresses a big issue with both the company's smart phone competitors and its own devices. The former tend to be geared more toward personal lives, while BlackBerries had lingered too long on the business side. Providing a “balance” between the two that also keeps them separate is a nice addition.

The BlackBerry will also be sold with a keyboard in addition to models with a touch screen. This should keep fans of the keyboard, a core user group, very happy. Research in Motion will also continue to boast some of the best data protection in the business, which will be appeasing to customers, particularly on the business side.

On the downside, BlackBerries don't have the same number of applications. Apple and Google have both worked hard to create large and vibrant application markets. While BlackBerry will have a notable number, it probably will never reach the scale offered by its competitors. That will be a long-term negative.

Looking for Number Three
BlackBerry 10 is making its debut shortly after Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) new mobile operating system, worked on in conjunction with Nokia (NYSE: NOK), was first presented to the market. Nokia's phone, the Lumina, has received high marks, as has Microsoft's operating system. However, some of that may be tied to what many view as an emerging duopoly between Apple and Google in the smart phone space.

Generally speaking, the industry would like to see at least one more notable participant to keep the market moving forward. Strong early orders for BlackBerry 10 devices suggest that it will launch to at least decent demand. Like the Microsoft/Nokia product, the BlackBerry will have an uphill climb to unseat the two dominant companies in the space. However, it looks like it will have a lot of people rooting for its eventual success.

It Lives!
Research in Motion shares are well off of their historic highs, but were up notably over the last few months in anticipation of a successful launch of its new product. Buy the rumor and sell the news seems to be the way to describe this, because the shares fell after the new products were presented to the public. Aggressive investors, however, might want to consider stepping aboard. However, conservative investors would be better off waiting for initial sales figures. That said, Nokia's Lumina sales have been pretty solid, so that may be a good place to wait.


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ReubenGBrewer has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Apple and Google. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Google, and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. Is this post wrong? Click here. Think you can do better? Join us and write your own!

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