Mike Lazaridis, the co-chief executive of Research In Motion, the company that makes the BlackBerry smart-phone line and the BlackBerry OS has informal announced today that they plan on releasing the 6.0 version of their BlackBerry OS software in the fall of this year.  This information comes shortly after Apple announced the release of the iPhone OS 4.0 software, along with the fourth-generation iPhone device.

According to RIM, the software update will primarily focus on providing a faster and more usable web browser, improving the software technology used in touch-screen products, and ensuring that the operating system is usable on older BlackBerry devices.  As a BlackBerry user, I agree that the built-in web browser is a bit lacking.  I would even go as far as to compare it to Microsoft’s “Internet Explorer”, only on the BlackBerry platform.  I say this because the browser often seems a bit sluggish, even when a page has been fully loaded.  I have personally installed Opera Mini on my BlackBerry handheld and the usability phenomenally better than the native browser.

However, while I was able to install Opera Mini to make my handheld more useful, some people using company handhelds do not have the ability to install third-party software, even if it will make them more productive.  Because of this, I feel that RIM’s decision to revamp their web browser will make the new operating system much more appealing to corporate users and businesses.  All in all, I feel that investing focus on the web browser is a wise decision for RIM, as it has the potential to make the product more competitive with Apple’s iPhone, whose built-in web browser is exponentially better than that of the BlackBerry.

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Next up, I believe that touch-screen technology, a field which Apple easily dominates now, is another good focus for RIM to have.  This being, many consumer phone users are starting to see touch-screen technology as the de facto standard, and many people see the BlackBerry as lacking in this field.  Simply by investing efforts in making a more usable touch-screen product, RIM can help to make their BlackBerry devices more appealing to individual consumers (as opposed to corporations and businesses), and could ultimately see increased sales as a result.

Lastly, ensuring that the new operating system is usable on older devices is also important, mainly because it shows that RIM intends to stand behind their products, and that their users will not necessarily be forced into purchasing new handhelds just to use the newest operating system.  This is important, because in comparison Apple’s iPhone OS 4.0 software quickly gained the reputation for not being usable on older iPhone versions such as the iPhone 3G.

Ultimately, the 6.0 release of the BlackBerry OS has the potential to make the BlackBerry more appealing to a vast majority of users; personal users who will enjoy the revamped touch-screen functionality, and corporations and businesses who will appreciate the support for older devices and increased browser performance.  However, despite what seems to be efforts on RIM’s part to make the device more appealing to individuals, I still don’t see the updated BlackBerry OS as being an “iPhone killer” by any stretch of the imagination.


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