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.