Dubai to learn by month-end if BB10 launch can save BlackBerry

Market experts say there will be a big demand from UAE consumers for the BlackBerry 10 when it is launched in the country.

Research In Motion CEO Thorsten Heins displays features of the Blackberry 10 during his keynote address during the Blackberry Jam Americas in San Jose, California in this file image from September 25, 2012. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which recently ditched Research In Motion's BlackBerry in favor of the iPhone confirmed December 13, 2012 it will trial RIM's new BB10 smartphones, fueling a fresh spurt in the Canadian company's share price ahead of the launch of the new devices.    REUTERS/Robert Galbraith/Files   (UNITED STATES - Tags: SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY BUSINESS TELECOMS) *** Local Caption ***  TOR102_US-RIM-SHARE_1213_11.JPG

DUBAI // Can BB10 save the BlackBerry smartphone and its maker, Research In Motion (RIM)? The answer will become clearer in Dubai at the end of the month.

The city is one of six, along with Toronto, New York, London, Paris and Johannesburg, where the operating system will be launched on January 30.

Worldwide BlackBerry sales have slumped in recent years as the device became viewed as old-fashioned and its features were overtaken by Apple’s iPhone and devices running Google’s Android operating system.

RIM hopes new features on BB10 will prove popular with consumers and rekindle the brand’s flagging popularity.

The features include the Hub, a unified inbox for emails, text messages, third-party messaging apps and social networks; Peek, which allows users to slide the screen and glance at another app without leaving the one they are using; and BlackBerry Balance, which keeps personal apps and information separate from work data.

It is not known when handsets running the new system will be on sale.

“It might take a couple of days or weeks following the official launch,” said Ashish Panjabi, chief operating officer at Jacky’s, the electronic warehouse chain.

Mr Panjabi said the continuing popularity of the BlackBerry in the Arabian Gulf, compared with its decline elsewhere, was due to three factors – the price of data packages, the price of the device itself and, “most importantly”,  that it is a “very cost effective means of communication for the large expatriate community to contact families abroad”.

Abbas Jaffar Ali, director of tbreak media, a technology company, said: “I think RIM is putting all they have into the BB10. As far as the device and operating system are concerned, I think it will be a knockout product.

“Where the challenge stands is getting quality third-party apps on their new platform. Microsoft is struggling with that, although the Android Player on BB10 will allow you to run a fair amount of Android applications, which is certainly an advantage.”

He estimated that the cost of the device would be about Dh2,000.

The launch will be a critical moment for RIM, according to Matthew Reed, principal analyst at Middle East and Africa Informa Telecoms and Media.

“Hard numbers for smartphone sales in this region are quite hard to come by, so I can only say that while BlackBerry devices seem to have remained popular in the UAE, I expect that the trend will be for Apple and Android devices to gain here at the expense of BlackBerry unless BB10 is a success,” he said.

"It's hard to predict how this is going to go for RIM. The indicators about the operating system are good but it must also seize consumers' imagination if RIM is to pull off a turnaround. The smartphone market is highly competitive and fast-changing."