Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM) plans to showcase the first two of its BlackBerry 10 smartphones on Jan. 30, giving details on the release date and prices for the devices it’s counting on to revive its fortunes.

Jefferies analyst Peter Misek called it a make-or-break product release and said the date of the launch event suggests a release date in mid- to late February or in March.

The news could ultimately have an impact on jobs in the Research triangle since RIM maintains a research and development operation in North Carolina.

A full touchscreen device is expected to be released first followed shortly after by a physical keyboard version.

BGC Financial Partners analyst Colin Gillis said the new phones won’t be dead on arrival as some analysts have said because RIM hasn’t lost the corporate market completely.

“Is 10 going to be the solution to retain that marketplace? We’ll have to wait and see,” Gillis said. “It’s great they set a date, but the challenges are still formidable. It’s not an issue of initial demand. It’s an issue of sustained demand.”

Gillis noted that RIM’s launch of a tablet initially went OK but then demand fell sharply. RIM’s tablet, the Playbook, uses software on which the BlackBerry 10 will be based.

The BlackBerry 10 will debut simultaneously in multiple countries around the world on that date, the Waterloo, Ontario-based company said Monday in a statement.

With the announcement, RIM moves a step closer to finally introducing the new smartphones after multiple delays put them a year behind schedule. Still, the company is forcing customers to wait another 11 weeks before they know when the phones will hit stores. RIM needs a hit to help it reverse market-share losses over the past two years to Apple Inc.’s iPhone and devices running Google Inc.’s Android software.

“They’ve got to keep the buzz going as they don’t have a new product for the holidays, so this was the right thing to do,” said Steven Li, an an analyst at Raymond James Ltd. in Toronto, who rates RIM the equivalent of a hold. “It’s obviously still on track for the first quarter.”
RIM has said that the devices, set to be released in the first three months of next year, will let users “peek” at one program with their finger while running another and offer “true multitasking,” letting them stand out from competitors.

RIM rose 3.8 percent to $8.86 at 9:36 a.m. New York time. After hitting a nine-year low on Sept. 24, the stock had gained 35 percent before today. The shares remain more than 90 percent below it 2008 peak.

Government Ties

“Thanks to our strong partnerships with global carriers and a growing ecosystem of developers, we believe our customers will have the best experience possible with BlackBerry 10,” Chief Executive Officer Thorsten Heins said in today’s statement.

RIM shares rallied after the company said on Oct. 31 that more than 50 carriers have begun lab-testing the phones, a process that typically takes 60 to 90 days. Then on Nov. 8, RIM said BlackBerry 10 had won security certification from the U.S. government, the first time that the company’s handsets have been certified for FIPS, or Federal Information Processing Standards, before their commercial debut.

That will be key to cementing RIM’s reputation as the most secure smartphone on the market, helping reassure the government agencies that are among its biggest customers, said Michael Brown, RIM’s vice president for security product management.

Discussions With Carriers

While a public demonstration of the phones at the end of January would make a February release possible in some markets, RIM alone can’t set the schedule, said Carl Howe, an analyst at research firm Yankee Group in Boston. RIM has previously said the devices will go on sale in the first quarter of next year.

Discussions between RIM and its biggest carrier partners, such as AT&T Inc. and Verizon Wireless in the U.S. and Orange SA and Vodafone Group Plc in Europe, will hinge on what other devices are part of the mobile-phone operators’ marketing plans, Howe said.

“It’s a negotiation,” Howe said.

Emerging markets in Latin America, Africa and Asia have helped the company increase its customer base in recent months, even as North American users switch to other phones. Chief Marketing Officer Frank Boulben said in July that the introduction of BlackBerry 10 devices would be widespread. He didn’t name countries and didn’t say whether the U.S. would be included initially.

“Will it be three continents or five, five countries or 10?” he said. “I don’t know the specifics yet, but it will be multiple countries on multiple continents.”

Outside the U.S.

Choosing to initially release the device outside the U.S. to generate more buzz might be a worthwhile strategy, Howe said.

“The hypothesis that they might start outside the U.S. is possible, as it would give them some pretty good sales numbers early,” he said. “They could launch with several million units sold within weeks.”

Howe said he likes what he’s seen of the BlackBerry 10 operating system.

“It’s very true to their heritage and is a very good platform for getting work done,” he said.

RIM ranks far behind the iPhone and Android devices in the smartphone market, putting it in a race with Microsoft Corp. for third place. Microsoft unveiled its latest platform, Windows Phone 8, last month, giving it a head start.

Still, it’s too early to say if Windows will push the BlackBerry to the sidelines. RIM has an opportunity to catch up, Howe said.
“They want to be counted, and Microsoft has left them an opening to do that,” he said.

(Bloomberg and The AP contributed to this report.)