RIM is expected to cover its bases next week by introducing two devices -- one joining the mainstream with an all-touchscreen display and another keeping the keyboard. The release dates for the new products haven't been announced, but Michaluk thinks RIM could make a touchscreen phone available first in an attempt to convert the curious keyboard faithful.
The BlackBerry 10 operating system will still emphasize work productivity with a BlackBerry Hub feature that collects e-mail and other messages in one spot. A voice assistant will do its best Siri impersonation, and mobile payments will get a boost with built-in NFC.
App selection is another key area that BlackBerry must address. BlackBerry App World, its online store, has about 100,000 apps, compared to more than 700,000 each for Android and Apple. Historically, the company has been known as an inhospitable place for small outside developers. But as part of its internal shakeup, RIM has drastically revamped its developer relations program.
Led by Alec Saunders, the group has been actively courting developers ahead of next week's launch with tools that make it easy to port over Android apps and programs like Built for BlackBerry, which offer incentives for apps made for the BlackBerry 10 platform. RIM is extending the deadline for the Built for BlackBerry program after it says it received 19,000 submissions.
Saunders has stated the company wants to have more apps at kickoff than the other smartphone platforms originally launched with. However, many big developers will likely wait to see the initial reaction to BlackBerry 10 before sinking money into creating apps for the new system.
Developers might be more optimistic about RIM's international potential. In Europe, where the BlackBerry brand has faired slightly better over time than in the United States, carriers still offer extremely competitively priced data plans for the devices, giving the phones an edge with companies that have international business travelers, according to Milanesi.
According to IDC, BlackBerry 10 is set to battle it out with Windows Phone 8 for the No. 3 smartphone operating system worldwide in 2013, behind Android and Apple's iOS. While its grip has slipped in North America, BlackBerry has maintained a strong presence in such far-flung places as Indonesia, Nigeria, South Africa, Mexico and some South American countries.
Michaluk thinks that RIM's decision to delay its big BlackBerry 10 launch until after Windows Phone 8 debuted could yield unexpected advantages.
"Being the newest platform on the block, they can look at what everybody's doing, what's good and bad," said Michaluk.
RIM will have to convince existing users that BlackBerry 10 and its new phones are worth sticking around for, but those last vestiges of BlackBerry's fan base probably won't be enough to keep the company afloat. The company also must lure back past BlackBerry users who have moved on to newer platforms, and present itself as a reinvigorated alternative to iOS, Android and Windows Phone 8.
Even then, there's no guarantee it will work.
Said Milanesi, "They can still do everything right and not succeed because of how competitive the environment is out there."