Research In Motion Ltd (RIM) on Wednesday unveiled the long-delayed line of smartphones it hopes will put it on the comeback trail, but it disappointed investors by saying U.S. sales of its all-new BlackBerry 10 devices (Z10 and Q10) will not start until March, sending its share price tumbling 12 percent.
RIM, which is already starting to call itself BlackBerry, had initially planned to launch the new BlackBerry 10 devices a year ago. But it pushed the release date back twice as it struggled to perfect a new operating system.
Ahead of Wednesday's announcements, analysts had said that any launch after February would be a black mark for the Canada-based company.
Nevertheless investors were extremely disappointed with the delay and RIM shares on the Nasdaq ended the day 12 percent lower at $13.78. Its Toronto-listed shares fell by almost the same margin to close at C$13.86.
RIM launched its first BlackBerry back in 1999 as a way for busy executives to stay in touch with their clients and their offices, and the company quickly cornered the market for secure corporate and government emails.
But its star faded as competition rose and the BlackBerry is now a far-behind also-ran in the race for market share, with a 3.4 percent global showing in the fourth quarter - down from 20 percent three years before. Its North American market share is even smaller - a mere 2 percent in the fourth quarter.
RIM shares have tumbled along with the company's market share and the stock is down 90 percent since its 2008 peak. Despite the pullback on Wednesday, RIM's share price has more than doubled over the last four months, reflecting the growing buzz about its new devices.
The new BlackBerry 10 phones will compete with Apple's iPhone and devices using Google's Android technology, both of which have soared above the BlackBerry in a competitive market.
The BlackBerry 10 devices boast fast browsers, new features, smart cameras and - unlike previous BlackBerry models - enter the market primed with a large application library, including services such as Skype and the popular game Angry Birds.
The BlackBerry Z10 touchscreen device, in black or white, will be the first to hit the market, with a country-by-country rollout that starts in Britain on Thursday.
A Q10 model, equipped with a small "qwerty" keyboard that RIM made into its trademark, will launch globally in April.
"I'm still confident that a lot of the subscriber base are