RIM Becomes BlackBerry; Unveils OS 10, New Phones, Alicia Keys

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Consider Research in Motion (RIM) a thing of the past.

At this morning’s BlackBerry 10 event in New York City, the company made several major announcements, the first being that RIM will simply be known as BlackBerry going forward. It’s a smart move for a company that isn’t really known for anything other than its BlackBerry devices, as the company can focus on promoting one large brand instead of two. It also signals a shift in the company’s thinking: it’s all in on the BlackBerry brand now, and there’s no turning back. If BB10 fails, the company fails. BlackBerry will trade under the symbol BBRY on NASDAQ.

That announcement, while important, was just a warm-up for the real stars of the show — the BlackBerry 10 OS and its two launch devices, the Z10 and the Q10.

BlackBerry 10

BlackBerry 10 is a big jump in the evolution of the BlackBerry mobile OS. The entire experience is controlled via touch, but it looks more responsive and polished than the touch-based OS that ran on the Storm and Storm II. BlackBerry 10 was built from the ground up to support touch controls and gestures, and as a result, opening apps and notifications, and moving back and forth between open apps is easy to do. BlackBerry really packed a ton of stuff into this new OS, so much so that I often found myself getting lost at times during the presentation. But here are the main selling points:

  • Flow – The design process that allows you to control the entire BB10 operating system with just your thumb. You can open apps and multitask between them using swiping gestures.
  • Peek – A feature that displays the BlackBerry hub while you’re working in another app so that you can see any notifications you have.
  • Balance – This feature essentially turns your phone into two phones: one for your personal life, and one for work. You can switch between these two personalities with a swipe and a tap, and your whole phone (wallpaper, available apps, etc) changes to match which mode you’re in.
  • BlackBerry Messenger – This mainstay of the BlackBerry world is still alive and kicking in BB10, and it now includes video chat and screen sharing, where one user can relay their screen to another user’s device.
  • Apps – For an operating system that just launched today, BlackBerry 10 already has a healthy library of apps ready to go — 70,000, to be exact. While there are some major favorites missing (Pandora, Netflix, for starters), BB10 has managed to get many top iOS and Android apps into its store.

The BlackBerry Z10

A new operating system is nothing without some fancy hardware to run it on, and BlackBerry didn’t disappoint with the Z10. The device features a 4.2-inch screen with a resolution of 1280 x 768. It works out to 356 pixels per inch (PPI), which actually surpasses the iPhone 5’s 326. Other notables on the Z10 include a 1.5 GHz, dual-core processor, 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of internal flash storage. There are front and back cameras on the device — the front being a 2 megapixel shooter capable of 720p video, and the back, a 8 megapixel camera that can shoot video in 1080p.

The device will be available in both black and white, and will show up on all four major U.S. carriers — AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile — at a price of $199. Unfortunately, the carriers will determine release dates, and we haven’t heard anything yet.

The BlackBerry Q10

BlackBerry knows that some BB loyalists love their physical keyboard, and that it would be foolish for the company to alienate those customers. That’s what brings the Q10 to the table, a BlackBerry 10-powered device with a built-in QWERTY keyboard and a 3.1-inch, 720 x 720 display. Aside from these few specs, we really don’t know a whole lot about the Q10. BlackBerry didn’t elaborate on any other specs, or mention any kind of price or release information. We’ll keep you updated as we learn more.

Alicia Keys?

There seems to be a trend in the electronics world: hire musicians to offer what the corporate guys call an “outside perspective.” Or, to be more accurate, “publicity.” Polaroid did it with Lady Gaga, and now it seems that BlackBerry is doing it with Alicia Keys. The company has brought Ms. Keys on board as the new Global Creative Director, pointing to her successes as a musician, an entrepreneur, and a working mom. Don’t get me wrong, I love Alicia Keys, but it’s hard to tell at this point whether the position is a serious one, or if BlackBerry is just cashing in on Keys’ name recognition to give BlackBerry 10 a boost.

The timing of the announcement, which followed a lengthy and awkward BlackBerry 10 demo, made the company look more desperate for attention than anything. But I’m a fan of the “benefit of the doubt,” and I’ll keep watching over the next few months to see if this move was a stunt or not.

Conclusion

It’s been a while since BlackBerry has put together this type of event, and it definitely showed. There were multiple moments during the event where a speaker would break for applause that never came. That can happen when you watch one too many Apple keynotes. It was uncomfortable, to say the least. Behind the awkward face that BlackBerry put on for the world, though, there’s something pretty fascinating. Is it going to unseat the iPhone or Android devices anytime soon? Probably not. Does it have a chance to make major inroads into the enterprise again? Absolutely. There’s a lot of great stuff in BB10, but I’m not sure there’s enough present to pull users away from iOS or Android — especially those who are heavily invested in their platform of choice. For businesses, however, BlackBerry 10 looks to offer a lot of very useful features that the other two platforms leave out.

Because of this, I think the potential for BlackBerry 10 to claw its way back into the enterprise race is there. I’m just not sure that regular people will buy one of these devices. We’ll see what happens when the first Z10’s start selling in the U.S.


— Shawn Farner

Shawn Farner is a Harrisburg-based tech blogger who has been involved in online media for over seven years. He covers consumer electronics, Web-based services, and tech startups. Read disclosures here.




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