Maybe there's a new job waiting for Beyonce at Apple. Or a gig for Cee Lo Green at Microsoft. The announcement this week that pop superstar Alicia Keys is the new creative director for Research In Motion -- now renamed BlackBerry as the struggling Canadian company tries to reinvent itself -- shows the growing power of celebrity in today's high-stakes mobile world, in which music, apps and other media are the key to the important youth demographic.
"I have been using the BlackBerry 10 for a few weeks now, and I'm truly inspired by its innovation," Keys said in a statement. "It has entirely revolutionized the experience. I know the potential this platform has to help creative people be more productive, and help productive people be more creative."
BlackBerry State of Mind
BlackBerry made the announcement as it rolled out its latest operating system, BlackBerry 10, which it hopes will reverse the trend of losing ground to the duopoly of Apple's iOS and Google's Android. On Monday the company announced it had entered content partnerships that would allow it to offer an extensive library of music and video downloads, to make BlackBerry devices more fun to use. Previously it has been best known for its messaging services, which made it a favorite for enterprise users at the dawn of the smartphone age.
The New York City-raised, "Empire State of Mind" songstress, who turned 31 this week and has won 14 Grammys, will work closely with app developers, other content creators, retailers, carriers and entertainers, and " be an active member of the BlackBerry community," BlackBerry announced in its official blog on Wednesday.
"Alicia Keys has come to BlackBerry because she believes in the product and technology, and subscribes to our overriding philosophy to 'Keep Moving': to empower people through mobile computing and communications," BlackBerry President and CEO Thorsten Heins said in the blog post.
"We are excited she will be bringing to us her enormous capabilities, as well as a vast network of relationships in the entertainment, social media and business communities, to help shape our brand and grow our business."
Grow it must. As it slashes jobs to streamline costs, RIM came in fifth in the list of top five global smartphone vendors in 2012, according to IDC, with just a 6 percent market share, down 36 percent from 2011's 10.3 percent share. On the other end of the spectrum, South Korean handset giant Samsung gained an almost unimaginable 129.1 percent to take the top spot with 39.6 percent of the market, up from just 19 percent last year.
Apple grew as well, from 18.8 percent to 25 percent, while Nokia saw a slump from 15.6 percent to 6.4 percent, and Taiwan's HTC fell 8.8 percent to an event smaller 6 percent.
In fourth-quarter results, BlackBerry didn't make it into the top five, included instead in the "others" category as Chinese maker Huawei showed a surprising surge to the No. 3 spot with 10.8 percent of the market, up from just 3.5 percent in the same quarter last year.
Reaction to the news on BlackBerry's blog was positive, with one commenter saying "Awesome! I love Alicia Keys!" But another pointed out, "FYI, if she's 'exclusively dating' BlackBerry, you might not want to have her sending tweets from her iPhone as recently as yesterday."