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A mysterious sneak peek at the first-ever BlackBerry Super Bowl commercial

BlackBerry has committed some serious marketing miscues in the past, but we’re intrigued by its latest PR stunt. The company tweeted a mysterious still from its first-ever (and very expensive) Super Bowl ad and asked followers “Whaaat is going on?!” We’re not sure—a Care Bear explosion? The air in Beijing? In any case, we’ll be watching on Sunday to find out. Let us know your take on the BlackBerry Super Bowl commercial in the comments.

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BlackBerry 10 makes some high-profile RIM doomsayers eat their words 

Research in Motion’s recent hot streak continues with a pair of endorsements from unlikely sources. This morning, Reuters reported the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agency—which dumped the BlackBerry for the iPhone a few months back, along with a pair of other spooked enterprise clients—will test run BlackBerry 10 devices early next year. And yesterday, Ironfire Capital’Eric Jackson, a long-time high-profile RIM pessimist, publicly reversed his position, arguing that RIM’s 80 million global subscribers could keep the company afloat. Add in a soaring share price and rave reviews for the latest leaked BlackBerry 10 photos, and RIM’s future is looking more promising that it has in a long, long time. [Reuters]

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Nokia versus RIM: a patent dispute could result in a BlackBerry sales ban

Research in Motion is on a roll this month, with a BlackBerry 10 launch date announcement and share price upgrades by several high-profile analysts. Still, it wouldn’t be RIM without some bad news mixed in, and the latest is bad enough to imperil the budding comeback: Nokia has won one of its patent disputes against RIM, which could bar the company from selling BlackBerrys. A Swedish arbitration panel has ruled that RIM can’t sell devices that use a crucial patent for accessing wireless local access networks until it pays damages and royalties, and Nokia is taking RIM to court in the U.S., the U.K. and Canada to enforce the decision. An outright sales ban is one possible outcome, though it’s more likely the two companies will work out a settlement and royalty agreement, which could cost RIM up to $350 million a year. Not exactly chump change for a company trying to turn its fortunes around. [Toronto Star]

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RIM’s stock surges with a vote of confidence from CIBC 

CIBC has joined the ranks of companies in the Canadian investment community forecasting a brighter less gloomy future for beleaguered Research in Motion. Yesterday, the bank’s capital markets arm raised its price target for the tech giant to $17 (U.S.) per share—more than double its previous estimate of $8. CIBC also improved RIM’s rating from “sector underperform” (not good) to “sector outperform” (good), and an analyst even called the company’s stock “materially undervalued.” Late last week, a National Bank Financial analyst also upped his price target for RIM from $12 to $15 (U.S.) and suggested investors buy shares in anticipation of the launch of the new BlackBerry 10 operating system, prompting RIM to make its biggest gain on the market since April 2009. Now, the company just really, really needs to make sure it doesn’t delay the release of its new OS. Again. [Canadian Business]

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RIM sets a launch date for BlackBerry 10 

Research in Motion has, at very long last, announced it will launch BlackBerry 10 on January 30, an entire year later than the company originally planned. RIM believes the new line of smartphones, with their sweet keyboards and multitasking capabilities, will be the innovation that saves the company after a disastrous year (though some analysts remain skeptical). However, don’t make plans to line up at stores just yet. At the January debut, RIM will show off two of the new phones, give information on pricing and announce the actual release date, which will likely be in the following month or two. That’s right: RIM has just announced the date when they will announce the date when consumers can actually buy a phone. We guess they’re really, really excited. [Bloomberg]

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Are BlackBerrys embarrassing? The debate continues

Do you keep your BlackBerry hidden? Barack Obama does (Image: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty)

The New York Times started an online furor earlier this week with an article on the social shame of carrying a BlackBerry in a market dominated by Android phones and iPhones (even corporate clients are making the switch). In a manner akin to confessing their transgressions at an A.A. meeting, BlackBerry users are quoted describing the scornful looks they receive, and the indignity of relying on others to pull up maps, make reservations or search for restaurants:

“I’m ashamed of it,” said Ms. Crosby, a Los Angeles sales representative who said she had stopped pulling out her BlackBerry at cocktail parties and conferences. In meetings, she says she hides her BlackBerry beneath her iPad for fear clients will see it and judge her.

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A BlackBerry outage strikes during iPhone launch week—for the second year in a row 

Earlier today, Research in Motion’s U.K. branch acknowledged that users in Europe, the Middle East and Africa were having service problems, which is poor timing, since the company is competing against iPhone 5 launch mania this week. We imagine the outage will spark a few oddball mutterings about sabotage by Apple—especially since the Great BlackBerry Outage of 2011, which wiped out email, texting and browsing services around the world, happened last year in the same week that Apple launched its iPhone 4S. The problem appears to have been fixed within a few hours, which means RIM probably won’t be offering free downloads of Bubble Bash this time around. [h/t Globe and Mail]

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The three biggest corporate cash hoarders in Toronto (and what we imagine they’re doing with the dough)

Last month, Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney accused corporate Canada of hoarding hundreds of billions of dollars of “dead money,” kicking off a heated debate over whether companies are being tight-fisted at a time when the economy could use a little stimulation. (Carney says companies should invest in Canada by spending the money or pay dividends to shareholders, while others say having large cash holdings is just prudent, considering that the global economic outlook is still far from certain.) The Toronto Star’s list of Canada’s top corporate hoarders includes three local (or semi-local) companies: George Weston Limited, Research in Motion and Magna International. Below, the answers they gave the paper—along with our own, speculative answers—to the question: What does one do with more than a billion dollars?

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“BBM” is now a real word, according to the Collins English Dictionary

Word nerds, take note: ”BBM,” the abbreviation, noun and verb encompassing every facet of BlackBerry Messenger, is officially part of the English lexicon. Anyone who forgets how to spell it can now find the word in the Collins English Dictionary, in between BBL and BBQ (quite a nice spot, we’d say). That’s a happy bit of news for Research in Motion, but we can’t help thinking that Collins’s timing is a little odd—considering RIM’s future is looking bleaker and bleaker, the word may go out of use before too long.

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BlackBerrys are disappearing from U.S. retail shelves 

Research in Motion is struggling according to nearly every conventional measure of business success: its stock price has plummeted, its market share is waning and its earnings are dismal. Now, BlackBerrys are losing space on retail shelves. According to James Faucette, an analyst at tech investment firm Pacific Crest, U.S. wireless carriers are downsizing their BlackBerry inventories and displaying fewer of the smart phones in their stores (the snazzy new iPhone 5 and upcoming Windows 8 phone will likely only exacerbate the problem). Faucette also noted, “We found a meaningful number of carrier retail locations which had not sold a single BlackBerry in over a month.” Though it’s unclear whether that’s the cause or an effect of being squeezed off the shelves. [All Things D]

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Why Apple’s victory over Samsung is a potential boon for RIM

With Apple’s billion-dollar legal victory over Samsung dominating tech news this week, we wondered how the outcome of the patent lawsuit would affect Research in Motion. Turns out we weren’t alone on that front. Here’s the consensus: the ruling potentially benefits RIM, Nokia and other companies that don’t use Google’s Android operating system. Basically, Samsungs U.S. market share could falter as it faces a court ban on selling eight of its models there; moreover, other Android manufacturers will need to take extra time before releasing new products to ensure they don’t infringe on Apple’s patents (although, to be fair, most of the infringements were Samsung-specific). Finally, the ruling reinforces the value of tech sector patents, of which RIM owns a large portfolio. The main point of uncertainty for the Canadian tech giant is the same one that’s been plaguing RIM for months—namely, whether the company can get BlackBerry 10 out quickly enough to capitalize on this opportunity.

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RIM preps for BlackBerry 10’s launch by buddying up to app developers and wireless carriers

(Image: m lobo)

Research in Motion’s survival depends almost entirely on whether consumers will buy the BlackBerry 10 smartphones now set to launch in early 2013. And consumers’ interest in doing so will rest not only on the phones themselves, but also on whether RIM can get software developers to create apps for them and wireless carriers to generate some pre-launch hype. The company has made some baby steps on both those fronts of late. Yesterday, RIM held a preview of the phones in Waterloo for developers, who mostly seemed impressed with the company’s new app-building process. And RIM has also started talks with North American carriers—during which it reportedly handed around some prototype BlackBerry 10 devices and received a “visibly enthusiastic” response. That has to be the most positive reinforcement the company has had in months.

• At key RIM conference, developing a sense of hope [Globe and Mail]
RIM gives Canadian carriers a look at its new BlackBerrys [Toronto Star]

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IBM may be interested in buying a large piece of RIM 

Even though Samsung doesn’t seem interested in partnering up with Research in Motion, that doesn’t mean RIM is a total pariah. The Toronto Star is reporting that IBM has made an “informal approach” about acquiring RIM’s enterprise-services unit (which mans BlackBerry’s secure servers and is largely responsible for the device’s popularity among corporate and security-conscious clients). According to a couple of unnamed insiders, RIM would wait until after BlackBerry 10 phones launch in 2013 before making any decision about a sale. In the meantime, it’s business as usual—which, unfortunately, involves layoffs and store closures on the one hand and incongruous optimism from Thorsten Heins on the other. [Toronto Star]

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Rumours circulate (yet again) that Samsung could buy RIM

A rumour runs through the tech world every few months that handset maker Samsung is thinking of licensing Research in Motion software or even buying the company outright. And every few months, that rumour is quickly quashed. Kicking off the latest round was Jefferies and Company analyst Peter Misek; he said that RIM is trying to revive discussions with Samsung about a licensing deal for the upcoming BlackBerry 10 operating system, and that Samsung may even buy RIM after BB10 launches. RIM shares rose more than five per cent early yesterday on the news, but—in keeping with the usual pattern—Samsung quickly announced it has not considered a partnership with RIM. (Someone send those excitable investors a memo.) [Globe and Mail]

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RIM finally releases a movie app for the PlayBook

(Image: screenshot from BlackBerry App World)

Research in Motion launched the Canadian version of its PlayBook video store app yesterday, which means the growing contingent of Canadians who own the tablet can, at long last, rent and buy movies and television shows. The app functions similarly to Apple’s iTunes store, allowing users to stream trailers for free and charging roughly $5 to rent a current release blockbuster (users don’t even have to wait for the download to finish before starting to watch). The video library comes a few months after RIM launched a long-awaited upgrade with email and calendar apps. We’d say the PlayBook is finally getting close to what techies had hoped for when it came out last year. [Globe and Mail]