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RIM tells European developers it's "ready to compete"

A sign of Research in Motion is seen at its headquarters in Waterloo
A sign of Research in Motion is seen at its headquarters in Waterloo

By Roberta Cowan

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Next-generation software for BlackBerry's smartphones is "ready to compete", Research In Motion's new chief executive, Thorsten Heins, told more than 2,000 technical developers on Tuesday, expressing confidence in RIM's long-term future.

The Canadian company has lost market share and market value after being comprehensively outplayed by technology giants Apple, Google and Samsung. But it is betting that yet-to-be-released products powered by its new QNX operating system will improve its image after a year of product delays, the botched launch of its PlayBook tablet and a shareholder revolt.

"The smartphone market is still young, and there are huge opportunities for us, both with consumers and business," Heins said.

In his first formal speech since he became CEO on January 23 after RIM's former co-chiefs bowed to investor pressure and resigned, Heins told a packed Amsterdam conference of BlackBerry developers that he would listen to them, that RIM would continue to innovate, and that the new QNX-based operating system would kick off its next technology growth curve.

He also said he was thrilled to take the reins at RIM and believed the new technology used in BlackBerry 10 devices, which are promised for later this year, will set the standard for a "new user paradigm" for use in the home, cars, tablets and in smartphones.

The Canadian firm was holding its first European developers meeting, with 2,000 attendees focused on making applications for the latest and future BlackBerry smartphones and the PlayBook tablet, which RIM had hoped would compete with Apple's iPad and Samsung's Galaxy Tab models.

"It's taking a little while for BlackBerry to fully transition to the new QNX-based operating system, but once it is ready to go, it will provide an exciting experience for consumers and will only get better as it's a powerful technical platform to build upon for the next decade of mobile," said Kevin Michaluk, founder of enthusiast website CrackBerry.com and a conference participant.

"Apple's iOS is well-developed, but it is actually now the oldest mobile operating system, older than Android, webOS, Windows Phone, while BlackBerry 10 is now the newest mobile platform," he said.

RIM said in December that it is delaying the launch of phones based on BlackBerry 10 until the later part of 2012 as it is awaiting the availability of a high-powered chip.

Heins didn't tell the developers on Tuesday exactly when the new phones would hit the market, but reiterated that they would be out "later in the year". A long-awaited software update for the PlayBook is still due before the end of February.

Heins cited market research from GfK that the Blackberry is the No. 1 smartphone in Britain, Spain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and the Netherlands and that 2 billion BlackBerry apps had been downloaded from RIM's App World. Six million BlackBerry apps are downloaded every day, he said.

"Those stats were really exciting, and with all the recent negative publicity, this data put things into context, and actually BlackBerry is doing well in the app space," said Ryan Hall, an app developer and director at Nice Agency in London.

(Editing by Peter Galloway)

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