RIM’s latest version of its BlackBerry operating system is finally set for official release at the end of January. BlackBerry 10 is being released at a time when RIM is not only struggling to increase its market share, but indeed to survive in this new age of Android and IOS dominance. So what is there for all you BlackBerry diehards to look forward to this latest version and maybe win back a few deserters?
Completely revised User Interface
BB10 is highly touch screen centric, and in line with that the look of the home screen is more in line with its touch screen competition. It shares a lot of design elements that Windows 8 has, namely the Tiles that are used for applications or would be folders. This has been combined with the gesture recognition akin to Samsung’s Touch Wiz functionality found in its Android phones. However in the previews shown it does look like RIM has been able to take these elements and make them its own; not that this will stop any fan boys crying copycat I am sure.
While this will mean superficially that you will have to relearn how to use your most beloved of mobile devices, that change is only skin deep. It will still do what it always has done well, namely email and messaging. Besides, you have probably endured interface changes in your everyday computing life; this will be less traumatic than that was.
You will still be able to get handsets with physical keyboards
When the BB10 was first announced there was no mention of RIM producing any more handsets with physical QWERTY keyboards. In the subsequent teaser and promotional videos released there was again no mention of a traditional BlackBerry handset. Well, while RIM may have lost the plot a little, they haven’t lost it entirely. While the first wave of handsets will be touchscreen only, CEO Thorsten Heins has confirmed that it would be “plain wrong to get rid of the physical keyboard”. The first handset that will come replete with said keyboard is the X10 and it looks more P9981 than 9900; which can only be a good thing. The soft keys and track pad have also been retired in favour of an increased screen size.
The BlackBerry is committed to becoming a Smartphone
BlackBerry have always been excellent for secure email and messaging and as doorstops, what RIM has struggled with to date is that Smartphones need apps to be successful in the consumer market. BB10 is being launched with an app store brimming with roughly 70,000 applications officially, although it may be more like 40,000. Regardless, this is a very respectable figure. For context, Windows 8 only mustered up about 9000 for launch. They have achieved this by basing BB10 on the architecture found in their failed foray into the world of tablets, Playbook.
QNX is a UNIX-like real-time operating system, aimed primarily at the embedded systems market. What this means to you and me is that we are better off not knowing anymore about the BB10’s architecture because it is so boring. What is less boring however is that it has a packaging tool that allows Android applications to be easily ported over to the BlackBerry platform.
The ease with which this allows developers to launch their apps in the BlackBerry ecosystem coupled with RIM committing $500,000 to its
port-a-thon events where RIM throws money at developers to release their apps on their platform goes a long way to explaining how they have so many applications ready for launch.
It will still exist in 12 months
Despite my flippant barbs in the office, even if Blackberry 10 doesn’t rejuvenate RIM’s fortunes, BlackBerry isn’t going anywhere any time too soon; it will last a least as long as your next phone contract that is for sure. RIM is sitting on $3bn cash and while it may have run up a couple year end losses in the past decade, it has aggressively restructured its business in the last 12 months, shedding 5000 employees. In a worst case scenario, they will stop producing hardware and license the operating system to other manufacturers. This they may do anyway, as this latest serving of BlackBerry is far too versatile to waste on just being a phone. At CES this year there was a Bentley Continental where the entire in car tech was powered by that QNX architecture.
Will it be success? Who knows at this stage? RIM has a lot of catching up to do though, not to even claim the trophy of most popular mobile operating system; it is actually only vying for third spot with this release.
For all you Blackberry diehards, your wait is now over! BlackBerry 10 was released yesterday, 30th January 2013.