SAN JOSE, Calif. – Research In Motion CEO Thorsten Heins is promising to restore the BlackBerry phone’s stature as a trailblazing device even as many investors fret about its potential demise.
Heins took the stage Tuesday at a conference for mobile applications developers to rally support for the upcoming release of BlackBerry 10, a new operating system that Research In Motion Ltd. is touting as its salvation after years of blundering wiped out some $80 billion in shareholder wealth.
With BlackBerry 10 still four to six months away from hitting the market, Tuesday’s gathering in San Jose, Calif., felt more like a revival meeting than a product preview. RIM, which is based in Canada, has been laying off thousands of workers to offset mounting losses after being outmaneuvered by iPhone maker Apple Inc. and other phone-makers relying on Google Inc.’s Android software.
“We recognize the need for change,” said Heins. “There is a new energy and a lot of fighting spirit at RIM.”
RIM aimed its message of hope and resilience at an audience of app developers because those programmers hold one of the biggest keys to its future. The success of the iPhone has proved that a broad selection of apps that make smartphones more fun and convenient can help drive sales of the devices.
One of the BlackBerry’s biggest shortcomings has been its relatively small inventory of apps. RIM says BlackBerry has about 105,000 apps, which pales next to the more than 700,000 apps in Apple’s iTunes store. Google’s Play store is stocked with more than 600,000 apps.
RIM is wooing app developers by offering them more tools to work with on BlackBerry 10 and offering financial incentives to persuade them they will make money on the new platform. The company told developers Tuesday that they can start submitting BlackBerry 10 apps for approval on Oct. 10. The new system already plans to feature built-in apps from four popular digital networking services —Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Foursquare.