It's make-or-break time for BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion. On Tuesday, the Waterloo, Ontario-based company previewed key features of its long-awaited BlackBerry 10 operating system, the success of which could determine the survival of the company.
At the BlackBerry World conference that opened Tuesday in Orlando, CEO Thorsten Heins demonstrated some of BB10's highlights. One of the features attracting attention is the touchscreen -only keyboard, meaning that the physical keyboard -- famous to countless BlackBerry owners' thumbs -- will not be available on the first BB10 devices.
Swipe Gestures, Camera Time Machine
The new virtual keyboard features larger-than-normal buttons, and new swipe gestures to facilitate keyboarding, such as backspacing by swiping the keyboard.
There are also new gestural functions in the camera app, where a user can move back in time in a photo just by highlighting an area, which calls up sections of stored images captured just before the main shot and leaves the rest of the image the same. The feature can be useful when one of the subjects in a group shot has their eyes closed in the main shot.
We asked Current Analysis' Avi Greengart, who attended Heins' keynote address, if it looks like BB10 will help return RIM to its competitive position.
Greengart said the demonstrated user interface included "a number of really interesting concepts," including the keyboard and such functions as "smoothly swiping between apps, either keeping to the stack of apps and documents you're in, or returning back to the main screen."
'Too Early to Tell'
He said that BB10 is clearly "designed for touchscreen interaction, and for personal productivity tools," the latter of which will be important for RIM to maintain or expand its focus on business markets.
But, Greengart noted, it's "too early to say" if BB10 is going to give RIM the hit the company needs.
"While the UI is impressive," he added, there have been other impressive user interfaces, such as Hewlett-Packard 's quickly abandoned WebOS or Microsoft 's "great UI" in its Windows Phone 7 platform, which, even with Microsoft's much greater resources, is still struggling to catch on.
"This is a good step for RIM," Greengart said, but it would be a "much stronger step if RIM was in better shape."
No release date for the new OS has yet been announced, although it's expected to be later this year. Hundreds of units of a prototype BB10 smartphone were handed out to developers, bearing a 4.2-inch display and resembling a small version of a RIM PlayBook tablet .
While RIM emphasized that the prototype is not the final product, one RIM executive told news media that the prototype was "a sneak peek into what the guiding principles will be."
Wooing third-party developers is a critical component of making the new BB10 devices successful. But recent research has indicated that only about 16 percent of developers are very interested in creating apps for the new platform, compared with 89 percent for Apple's iPhone and 79 percent for Android devices.
Posted: 2012-06-25 @ 1:06pm PT
RIM will go to $90 by this time next year.