Research In Motion held its long-awaited coming out party for BlackBerry 10 this morning, rebranding itself simply as “BlackBerry” in the process to signal a complete makeover. And while RIM — er, BlackBerry — faces a huge challenge, it looks like all the pieces are in place for a turnaround: The new OS is getting positive reviews, the first supporting handset has impressive specs (an all-important QWERTY device is on the horizon), and the company is building a respectable app ecosystem as well as solid carrier partnerships. And while devices won’t hit the U.S. market for about six more weeks, there doesn’t seem to be anything else out there to steal BlackBerry’s thunder in the meantime.
The problem, of course, is that other operating systems have struggled mightily in recent years despite having many — if not all — of those pieces in place. Palm’s WebOS was a miserable failure despite being widely hailed as a viable alternative to Android and iOS. And while Windows Phone is slowly building an audience, it certainly has not seen the widespread traction it should have given its broad industry support.
So what are the keys to success for BlackBerry? The new platform isn’t clearly superior to iOS and Android, so BlackBerry and its partners must target business users by differentiating the OS’s messaging and security features, which were key to RIM’s ascendance a decade ago. And to avoid becoming a niche player for the enterprise, it must somehow do that as it attracts lures young users away from the two dominant platforms. That will take remarkable marketing savvy as well as some very deep pockets, but it will be necessary if BlackBerry is to (re)join the ranks of major mobile platform providers.