Can new smartphones rekindle the BlackBerry fire?

RIM hopes to translate positive pre-launch buzz into sales of its Z10 and X10 smartphones Wednesday

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Mullany said he foresees the user interface of the Z10 working well with professional sports apps favored by the male professionals who make up an important demographic for the BlackBerry. Major League Baseball said this week that it plans to bring its At Bat app to the BlackBerry 10 phones for the start of the 2013 season.

"This is a market-leading device that's as fast as iOS and with more features," Mullany said. "RIM's done a fantastic job of GPU [graphics processing unit] integration. On the HTML5 side, it's a great deployment platform for apps. "

Acceptance of the new BlackBerry 10 phones by consumers is hard to predict, but some enterprise users have come forward. Oliver Bussmann, CIO at business software maker SAP, said in an interview at the International CES trade show earlier this month that he had seen prerelease versions of the X10 qwerty phones. He said the phones will be appreciated by many of the 16,000 BlackBerry users at SAP who like a physical keyboard.

"SAP will continue to offer its employees choice via corporate-owned and personal devices across Android, iOS and BlackBerry platforms and that will include BB 10," Bussmann said via email. "We will test the BB 10 devices and make them available for internal usage soon."

Bussmann said it's important for enterprise IT to be open to BlackBerry 10 and other platforms. "It is imperative that IT decision-makers implement enterprise class apps that replicate the same kind of experience that consumers have become used to -- easy, intuitive and beautiful -- while also granting access from any device platform and adhering to security requirements," he said.

Overall, SAP supports about 50,000 smartphone and tablet users globally.

Enterprises are expected to be interested in a dual personality feature in the BlackBerry 10 operating system called BlackBerry Balance, analysts said. The Balance technology will allow two user profiles to exist separately on the same phone for work and personal data, but it will also allow a user to mingle emails from both profiles in a single stream.

The advantage will be that if an employee leaves a company, the IT shop can use the new BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10 software to wipe off all the mission-critical work data, leaving the user's personal data on the device.

BlackBerry Balance, and the fact that BES 10 allows management of Android and iOS as well as BlackBerry devices, will help "stem some of the flow of BES removals" by enterprises, Redman and other analysts said.

Still, the traditional features that RIM has focused on with enterprises, such as security and management capabilities for IT, are expected to take a back seat to the user interface, browser and overall product appeal of the new phones.

"RIM has a lot riding on next week's announcements -- maybe the future of the company," Redman said. "It will be an interesting year ahead."

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is

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Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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