By Alexandra Burlacu | Sep 26, 2012 12:18 PM EDT
Struggling smartphone pioneer Research in Motion (RIM) has revealed new details on Tuesday, Sept. 25, regarding its BlackBerry 10 platform, and the company is poised to reclaim its spot at the top of mobile ecosystems.
Many see RIM's BlackBerry 10 platform as the company's last chance to stay in the game after being outmaneuvered by Apple and other manufacturers using Google's Android operating system. After several delays, RIM recently announced that it would launch its BlackBerry 10 smartphone on six continents early next year, in a bid to offset the declining popularity of BlackBerry in the U.S. RIM will face further challenges from Microsoft, as the software giant is releasing its Windows Phone 8 next month, in conjunction with powerful partners such as HTC, Samsung, and Nokia.
No. 3 Platform
During a press briefing at BlackBerry Jam, RIM CEO Thorsten Heins said the company's move to bet everything on its new BlackBerry 10 OS would allow RIM to start rebuilding its user base in the U.S. and North America, where it has lost significant ground to devices from Apple, Samsung, Microsoft, and others.
"We have a clear shot at being the No. 3 platform in the market," said Heins. "Carriers want other platforms. And we're not just another open platform running on another system. We're BlackBerry."
Heins also touted the new software's ability to multi-task, and highlighted its suitability for enterprise and business customers. RIM previously offered a sneak peak at the new platform back in May, but at the time the company was planning to unleash new BlackBerry 10 smartphones by the end of 2012.
Things have changed since then, and in June RIM announced yet another delay, this time pegging the release for early 2013. Heins has now confirmed those plans and said BlackBerry 10 is on track and "just a few months away," but offered no exact date for that early 2013 release.
In a major move for RIM, the new BlackBerry 10 ditches the familiar physical QWERTY keyboard that made BlackBerry famous. Instead, BB10 sports a touch-screen keyboard with apps laid out in a grid, catching up with today's smartphones. Meanwhile, an updated browser promises more HTML5 proficiency.
Just like Apple's iOS, RIM's BlackBerry 10 will now allow users to jump back and forth between apps, thanks to a feature called Flow. According to RIM, developers will be able to easily port their Android apps into the BB10 store. BlackBerry will embrace social networking integration with popular apps such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Foursquare. The platform also features a new Contacts app, designed to allow users to sync with their social networks.
Getting BlackBerry 10
It remains unclear at this point which devices will support the new BB10 operating system. RIM unveiled a new BlackBerry 10-enabled device on Tuesday, but that handset is intended solely for developers. Called the BlackBerry Dev Alpha B, the device sports a 4.2-inch screen with a 1280 x 768 resolution, but the does not guarantee that the final device will be the same. Users with older BlackBerry devices, however, may not be able to upgrade from BB7 to BB10.
RIM said it will not stop supporting BlackBerry 7, and devices running the older software will still be available even when the new OS launches. Moreover, the company still has a sizeable team dedicated to maintaining the BB7 OS, added RIM. Meanwhile, carrier testing for the new OS will reportedly kick off next month, but RIM did not detail which carriers will support BB10.
BlackBerry for Business
BlackBerry built its reputation by catering to enterprise customers, and the company continues to target that market with BB10. In a bid to capitalize on the increasingly popular Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) to work practice, BB10 offers a feature called BlackBerry Balance, which keeps personal apps and data separate from work information.
BlackBerry 10 also brings a major update to the messaging system, adding a universal inbox called the BlackBerry Hub. In this hub, users have access to e-mails, texts, BBMs, as well as social networking notifications, all in one single centralized location. The virtual keyboard allows for easier messaging with auto-complete in multiple languages. If a user is writing a sentence in English and wants to include a Japanese word, for instance, the auto-complete function would finish the word in Japanese just as it would in a normal English sentence.
BlackBerry for Non-Business Users
While BlackBerry is essentially targeting enterprise and business customers, RIM did unveil some fun features as well, such as BlackBerry Games. The gaming service will feature leader boards and a friends list just like iOS' Game center, but it lacks other features such as achievements or random matchmaking.
That's All, Folks!
RIM has promised "more surprises" between now and the BlackBerry 10 release early next year, but the company has not offered any more details for now: no word on exact availability of BlackBerry 10 devices, no word on pricing, and no details on carriers.
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