RIM: We're Counting Down The Days Until BlackBerry 104:43 PM EST Wed. Dec. 05, 2012
On Jan. 30 Research In Motion will reveal BlackBerry 10, its latest mobile operating system. The launch, which will also usher in a new generation of BlackBerry smartphones, is widely viewed as RIM's final chance to stage a comeback against rivals Apple and Google.
And, according to RIM, it can't wait for that chance to arrive.
"Everyone is quite excited about the launch," said Vivek Bharwaj, head of RIM's software portfolio, in an interview with CRN Wednesday. "It's January 30, and everybody [at RIM] has a count-down avatar that we can see every day on [BlackBerry Messenger]."
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The launch of BlackBerry 10 is poised to be one the largest and most-watched in RIM's history, not necessarily because of the new product itself, but because it could help RIM recapture some of the market share it's been steadily losing to its rivals. Once a trailblazer in the smartphone space, RIM has seen its share of the market shrink substantially over the past few years, particularly with the rise of the iPhone and the explosion of Android-based devices. Last month, Gartner reported that RIM's BlackBerry platform accounts 5.3 percent of the worldwide smartphone market, a figure that pales in comparison to Android's 72.4 percent and Apple's 13.9 percent.
But, according to Bharwaj, RIM is well aware of the uphill battle it faces against Apple and Google, and it is confident that BlackBerry 10 will give it the boost it needs to fight back.
"This year has been, obviously, a very interesting and challenging one," Bharwaj said. "But I think what's happened over the last two, three months -- and we've seen it with media, we've seen it with carriers, we've seen it with just the general public -- they are impressed by what they see."
Bharwaj said BlackBerry 10 will target RIM's bread-and-butter enterprise market, but it was also built with consumers in mind. He said three things were prioritized when creating the new OS: a faster Web browser, support for 4G networks and a touchscreen experience, and a robust ecosystem of apps.
The new browser in BlackBerry 10, Bharwaj continued, provides a "much, much better" experience than the browser in BlackBerry 7, RIM's prior-generation platform. It fully supports HTML5 and Adobe Flash and will feel significantly faster in users' hands, he said.
Support for 4G networks and touchscreens has also been achieved with BlackBerry 10. While some new BlackBerrys will maintain RIM's signature QWERTY keyboard, others will tout a full touchscreen. "For the last two years, we did not provide a compelling all-touch experience," Bharwaj told CRN. "When we demonstrate BlackBerry 10 [touchscreens] ... the feedback has been overwhelming."
As for apps, Bharwaj said RIM has been working feverishly to build up its BlackBerry App World storefront, which currently hosts around 140,000 apps. There are 70,000 apps that have been built specifically for BlackBerry 10.
"Not only are we going to now start to have the quantity of applications, but we are also now starting to attract the big brands," Bharwaj said, citing Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare as examples.
NEXT: BlackBerry 10 Is BYOD-Ready
Meanwhile, BlackBerry 10 will also deliver a number of enterprise-specific features, such as BlackBerry Balance, a solution that lets users host their personal data separately from their corporate data on a single BlackBerry device. Each mode -- personal and corporate -- can host its own apps, data and files independently from the other.
"You can, then, have two instances of Twitter -- a personal one and a work one," RIM's Bharwaj explained. "So you can stay logged in on your work one with your work account, logged in on your personal one with your personal account, and you never have to worry about the accidental tweet on a Saturday night from your work account."
BlackBerry Balance was created largely in response to the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend; it lets administrators fully monitor and secure a user's corporate data, without the users themselves fearing their privacy has been compromised. What's more, if a BlackBerry 10 device is lost, IT can remotely wipe the corporate data while leaving a user's personal information intact.
Bharwaj declined to comment on the location or timing of the Jan. 30 BlackBerry 10 launch. But, he did emphasize that RIM is ready to show off the new software to the world, especially after providing so many glimpses of it over the past few months.
"We kind of now are just at that last hurdle," Bharwaj said. "It's not often that you get to build a new platform, reveal it progressively to the world and actually show them what you're building and actually build a quality experience. Especially with the pace of our industry, it's very difficult to do that."
PUBLISHED DEC. 5, 2012