Rebranded BlackBerry taps Alicia Keys in comeback effort

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Updated 30 January 2013
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Rebranded BlackBerry taps Alicia Keys in comeback effort

NEW YORK: BlackBerry launched its comeback effort on Wednesday with a revamped operating system and a pair of sleek new handsets, plus a company name change as the smartphone maker moves to reinvent itself.
Canadian-based Research in Motion changed its name to BlackBerry as it launched the BlackBerry 10, the new platform aimed at helping the firm regain traction in a market now dominated by rivals.
“From this point forward, RIM becomes BlackBerry,” chief executive Thorsten Heins told a glitzy unveiling in New York, one of six global events for the product launch. “It is one brand. It is one promise.”
The new BlackBerry “will transform mobile communications into true mobile computing,” Heins said.
Heins presented two devices, the touchscreen-only Z10 and the Q10 model, which contains BlackBerry’s trademark keyboard.
The release of the new handsets will be staggered over the next couple of months. One of the phones will be available in Britain from Thursday, and Canadians will be able to buy one February 5.
In the critical US market, the device will not be available until March, although leading carriers like AT&T and Verizon are unveiling plans now, Heins said.
The company also introduced recording star Alicia Keys as its new global creative director.
Heins said the new BlackBerry is not just about new platforms and products, but “engaging with successful entrepreneurs and working moms,” and that Keys would play a role in that effort.
Keys, who said she had returned to BlackBerry after flirting with other devices, said her job would allow her to “work with people in the entertainment and music business” to help enhance the BlackBerry experience.
The launch is seen as critical to BlackBerry, which had been the dominant smartphone maker before Apple launched its iPhone and others began using the Google Android operating system.
“This is the first step in BlackBerry’s recovery and I think they did a good job so far, but there are still so many more steps,” independent analyst Jeff Kagan said. “We’ll have to wait and see, but so far, so good.”
Kagan said the new BlackBerry “will be a strong competitor for the number three position. They won’t come close to number one or two where Google and Apple are, but the market does want more choices.”
BlackBerry has traditionally scored best with corporate clients who have been partial to the device’s reputation for greater network security.
However, the smartphone market has been changing radically as more companies shift to a “bring your own device,” or BYOD, model in which companies let workers choose their smartphone.
Heins’ pitch appeared geared to both corporate and rank-and-file consumers. He emphasized the ease with which users can, with the flick of a finger, switch between e-mails and applications.
Other features include the capacity for users to share in real-time screens and complex data from two different locales on a messaging system. The phone also features an efficient writing device in which writers can flick a single character and generate an entire word in English, French, German or other languages.
Heins said the device was geared for “people who are hyper connected socially” and “people who like to get things done.”
RIM’s recent performance on Wall Street suggests the market is open to the BlackBerry 10. Shares have risen more than 30 percent since the start of the year, although they dropped back over the last two sessions.
Carolina Milanesi, an analyst for Gartner who specializes in consumer devices, said a successful launch will at least give them a shot to get into the game” but that BlackBerry has little room for error, after a launch delayed for several months.
“They will not be forgiven for any mistakes,” she said.
BlackBerry shares fell 4.4 percent after the launch to $14.97 in late morning trade.
According to research firm IDC, BlackBerry’s share of the global smartphone market slipped to 4.7 percent in 2012, compared to 68 percent for Android and 18.8 percent for Apple’s iOS.


Saudi Arabia, Russia and China give EU trade reforms thumbs down at WTO

Updated 29 min 53 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia, Russia and China give EU trade reforms thumbs down at WTO

  • China is suing US and EU at WTO
  • Kingdom warns new rules are concerning

The EU’s new rules against countries dumping cheap goods on its market got a rough ride at a World Trade Organization meeting, where China, Russia and Saudi Arabia led a chorus of disapproval, a trade official said on Thursday.

The EU, which is in a major dispute with China about the fairness of Chinese pricing, introduced rules last December that allow it to take into account “significant distortions” in prices caused by government intervention.

A Chinese trade official told the WTO’s anti-dumping committee that Beijing had deep concerns about the new methodology, saying it would damage the WTO’s anti-dumping system and increase uncertainty for exporters, an official who attended the meeting said.

China argued that the concept of “significant distortion” did not exist under WTO rules, and the EU should base its dumping investigations on domestic prices in countries of origin, such as China.

The EU reformed its rules in the hope they would allow it to keep shielding its markets from cheap Chinese imports while fending off a Chinese legal challenge at the WTO.
China said that when it joined the WTO in 2001, the other member countries agreed that after 15 years they would treat it as a market economy, taking its prices at face value.

But the US and the EU have refused, saying China still subsidises some industries, such as steel and aluminum, which have massive overcapacity and spew vast supplies onto the world market, making it impossible for others to compete.

China is suing both the US and the EU at the WTO to try to force them to change their rules.

Legal experts say the dispute is one of the most important in the 23-year history of the WTO, because it pits the major trading blocs against each other with fundamentally opposing views of how the global trade rules should work.

In the WTO committee meeting, Saudi Arabia said the new rules were very concerning, and it challenged the EU to explain how EU authorities could ensure a fair and objective assessment of “significant distortion.”

Russia said the EU rules violated the WTO rulebook and certain aspects were unclear and created great uncertainty for exporters. Bahrain, Argentina, Kazakhstan and Oman also expressed concerns.

But a US trade official said the discussion showed that appropriate tools were available within the WTO to address distortions affecting international trade.