By Euan Rocha
(Reuters) - Research In Motion Ltd plans to introduce its new line of BlackBerry 10 smartphones on January 30, the company said on Monday, giving investors a measure of confidence the long-awaited devices are approaching the finish line.
The Waterloo, Ontario-based company, a one-time pioneer in the smartphone industry, is betting its future on the new line of products, which will be powered by its new BlackBerry 10 operating system.
RIM has struggled over the last two years as its devices lost ground to snazzier and faster smartphones such as Apple Inc's iPhone and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd's Galaxy line.
In a brief statement, RIM said the twice-delayed devices will be launched simultaneously in multiple countries. It will introduce two BlackBerry 10 smartphones, along with the platform that powers them at the event.
"While it is clearly an uphill battle for RIM given the recent launch of the iPhone 5 device and the aggressive marketing dollars being pushed toward Windows 8, we view it as a modest positive that a date is now officially set for the launch of the new BB10 devices," Wells Fargo analyst Jennifer Fritzsche wrote in a note to clients.
RIM has said it plans initially to roll-out touchscreen devices. Phones with the mini QWERTY keyboards that many long-time BlackBerry users rave about will come a few weeks later, while lower-end versions of both devices will be launched later in the year.
The company did not say when the devices will be available in stores. That will be announced at the event.
Evercore Partners analyst Mark McKechnie believes the BB 10 devices will be available within two to four weeks of the launch event, but some such as Peter Misek of Jefferies expect the devices to go on sale only in March.
RIM's Nasdaq-listed shares were up 3.2 percent at $8.82 in late afternoon trading on Monday. Its Toronto-listed shares rose nearly 3 percent to C$8.81.
ALL OR NOTHING
RIM says its new devices will be faster and smoother and have a large catalog of applications that are now crucial to the success of any new line of smartphones.
Last week, the new platform and devices won U.S. government security clearance, potentially allowing both U.S. and Canadian government agencies to deploy the new smartphones as soon as they are available.
These were the first BlackBerry products to win Federal Information Processing Standard 140-2 certifications ahead of their introduction, the company said.
RIM began carrier tests on the BB10 devices last month. The Canadian company hopes they will help it win back some of the market share it lost to the iPhone and devices that run on Google Inc's Android operating system.
RIM's stock has fallen more than 90 percent from a peak of over $148 in 2008. But at Friday's close, the shares were up about 20 percent over the last two months on signs that the BlackBerry 10 devices are finally likely to make it to market.
(Reporting by Euan Rocha; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn, Janet Guttsman and Andre Grenon)