By Euan Rocha
TORONTO (Reuters) - BlackBerry maker Research in Motion is helping customers prepare to switch to its soon-to-be-launched BlackBerry 10 smartphones that it hopes will help it reclaim market share from rivals such as Apple Inc.
RIM is betting that the new range of touch-screen and keyboard devices, set for a January 30 launch, will revive its fortunes.
The company was "very enthused by the engagement and response of our customer base" to a program aimed at persuading them to adopt the BlackBerry 10 devices, Bryan Lee, senior enterprise accounts director, told Reuters on Wednesday.
Indeed, whether it will be successful in clawing back market share will depend on the response from RIM's top clients, like companies and government agencies, who have long valued the strong security features that BlackBerry devices offer.
Lee said more than 1,600 customers in North America had registered for its recently launched BlackBerry 10 Ready Program and more than a thousand were actively using the program, which offers customers access to services, information and tools to ease their transition to the BlackBerry 10 and the BlackBerry Enterprise Server 10.
RIM also said its BlackBerry Enterprise Server 10, which runs the new devices on corporate networks, was in beta testing with more than 130 major government agencies and corporations in North America.
Waterloo, Ontario-based RIM, a one-time pioneer in the now ultra-competitive smartphone industry, has bled market share to Apple's iPhone and devices powered by Google's market-leading Android operating system, even among enterprise clients who once used BlackBerry devices exclusively.
Early adoption of the long-awaited BlackBerry 10 devices by government and corporate clients will help breathe new life into the struggling company, whose shares are down 90 percent from an all-time high of more than $148 in 2008.
Still, shares of RIM, which fell as low as $6.22 in September, have more than doubled in value over the last four months as the BlackBerry 10 launch approaches.
Lee said clients that were beta testing the new BlackBerry Enterprise Server 10 included more than 60 Fortune 500 companies and top North American government agencies.
RIM promises that its new line of devices will be faster and smoother than existing BlackBerry phones and will boast a large catalog of apps, crucial to the success of any new line of smartphones.
Shares of RIM were up 3.8 percent at $15.03 in afternoon trading on the Nasdaq on Wednesday, after Visa approved the smartphone company's method of handling secure mobile payments; the technology will potentially allow users to tap their smartphones on credit card readers and pay for purchases.
RIM's Toronto-listed shares were up 3.9 percent at C$14.83.
(Editing by Janet Guttsman and Bernadette Baum)