Can the Torch Reignite BlackBerry?

Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM  ) made it official today, refreshing the faltering BlackBerry brand with a new phone and operating system.

The BlackBerry Torch, available Aug. 12 exclusively from AT&T (NYSE: T  ) , is the company's first slider phone. The unit has a 3.2-inch touchscreen face with a trackpad, and the bottom slides out vertically to reveal the standard BlackBerry keyboard. It will be powered by the long-awaited BlackBerry 6 OS, which features a new Web browser based on the WebKit engine -- the same one used by the iPhone and Android-based devices.

BlackBerry 6 is expected to be available in the near future for some existing versions of the Bold and Pearl. Oh, and by the way, there was no mention today of the much-rumored "Blackpad" tablet computer designed to compete with Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) successful iPad. However, Bloomberg -- citing "two people familiar with the company's plans" -- says the device will debut in November.

Even without a Blackpad announcement, this freshen-up couldn't have come a moment too soon for RIM, which yesterday received some ominous news from a Nielsen survey. Among BlackBerry owners likely to upgrade soon, an incredible 57% want to try either Apple's iPhone, a Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) Android phone, or some other brand. That lack of loyalty is downright scary compared to the iPhone (11% would switch) and Android (29% switch-rate) numbers.

The new operating system and Torch phone are definitely a step in the right direction, but I think RIM needs to take more than a step to reverse this ominous trend. Maybe the Blackpad will bring something fresh and new to the market, but I doubt it. At this point, investors are probably expecting more of the same from RIM: just catching up to the competition, but not beating it.

Fool analyst Rex Moore is too drowsy to operate heavy machinery. He owns no companies mentioned in this article. Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers pick. Apple is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection. The Fool owns shares of Google. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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