FORTUNE -- With its shares trading at a fraction of what they were five years ago and dwindling ownership of the smartphone market, Research in Motion desperately needs a hit with BlackBerry 10, which rolls out on January 30. At this point, RIM's historic decline is well-documented. Through a combination of hubris and lack of innovation, the smartphone leader went from one being one of Fortune's Fastest Growing Companies, with a stunning annual expansion rate of 84%, to fighting for third place with Microsoft, which is also struggling in phones.
There will be major promotion (Duh)
This may be RIM’s last chance, and the company knows it. Expect the company to pull out all the stops with press events in New York, Toronto, London, Paris, Johannesburg, and Dubai. According The Record, RIM plans to mark the launch of BlackBerry 10 later this month with a slew of promotion, including ice skating parties in Kitchener and Waterloo, Ontario. (RIM is headquartered in Waterloo.) Kitchener’s city council is relaxing the rules. Normally, private companies can’t use public property to advertise. But the city is allowing RIM to hang banners on lamp poles around city hall and keep them up for three weeks after the event.
The BlackBerry Z10
One of RIM’s first attempts to play catch-up with the iPhone was the BlackBerry Storm, a touchscreen phone released in 2008 that critics found all-around glitchy and hard to use. The BlackBerry Z10 could well be the company’s unofficial apology for the Storm fiasco. Rumored to pack a 4.2-inch full-touch, high-definition display with 1,280-by-768-resolution, a 1.5GHz dual-core ARM Cortex A9 processor, 2 gigabytes of RAM, and 16 gigabytes of storage, the device is no slouch is certainly comparable to many of today’s smartphones. There’s also a front-facing, 2-megapixel camera with 2x digital zoom and 720p resolution video recording capability. An 8-megapixel camera with flash, auto-focus, 5x digital zoom, and 1080p video recording is on the back. WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, 4G mobile speeds, and Near Field Communications (NFC) technology are also included.
The BlackBerry X10
Less is known about the BlackBerry X10, a more-traditional looking RIM device that resembles like its BlackBerry Bold series, from the now-classic-looking four-row keyboard to the touchscreen above it. (Predictably, that touchscreen appears to be larger based on leaked photos.) Those accustomed to touch-typing on their iPhones, Android and Windows Phone devices might write off the X10, but given RIM’s long-time clients are used to physical keys, offering a phone with them is a safe bet. Many executives in the telecom industry believe there is a strong constituency for physical keyboards, that these are BlackBerry's bread-and-butter customers, and that the company has too long neglected them by chasing Apple (aapl) and Google (goog).
With its new operating system, BlackBerry 10, RIM is aiming for a more intuitive experience with what it calls the "Flow" interface. Apps are presented in square-shaped, iPhone-like icons. There's no home button this time around, and swiping from any one of four directions brings up something different. Swipe up to view "active frames,” or real-time updating shortcut tiles to apps that are currently open. Swipe down to visit settings. Swipe from left to right bring up the “BlackBerry Hub,” a sort of master inbox that groups together all of your emails, tweets, LinkedIn messages, and other communications. Finally, wipe the other way to go back to your previous task, app, screen, etc.
The virtual keyboard is also smarter and will suggest words above the letter your finger happens to be on based on context, like for instance the placement of the word within the sentence. The HTML5-friendly browser hides the title bar to save space on the screen. A new photo feature called "Time Shift," uses the camera to take 10 shots in rapid succession: five before and five after you engage the shutter. The user then has the option of choosing the subjects' best facial expression from several different photos using it for the final shot.
This video offers a good idea of what future BB10 users are in for: