Friday, 14 September 2012

Review: BlackBerry 10

BlackBerry’s new software might just get the beleaguered RIM back in the race with its smartphone rivals – but only if it gets the timing right.

At last month’s BlackBerry World, the annual trade show where Canadian manufacturer RIM announces its goods, there was a make-or-break atmosphere. And it all depends on BlackBerry 10. This is the operating system software that is due out later this year, replacing the current system. Since that’s called BlackBerry 7 OS and this is not 8 or 9 but 10, it’s obviously a big leap forward, right?
Actually, it is. Although the software is not finished, the glimpses attendees had at the show were very impressive. A company called QNX was responsible for the vast majority of automotive computing systems. RIM bought QNX at a time that chief executive Thorsten Heins describes as a flush of good news. “Sometimes you just get into a rhythm of success,” he said. RIM’s recent poor sales and bad headlines must be making him hope the company can find that rhythm again.
QNX then went on to design operating software for the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet. Though the tablet hasn’t taken off, it was not the fault of the software which was acclaimed as nimble, sleek and highly enjoyable in use. Programs launch quickly and when you’re done with them, you close them by flicking them off the screen – it’s very satisfying.
This tablet software had advanced multitasking capabilities, so emails kept arriving speedily while you watched a video and websites updated in the background. Now the QNX system has evolved so it will work for both phones and tablets with new features and capabilities.
The phone’s home screen looks stunning, with big window tiles dotted about showing you stuff you need, making access to an email in-box quick and instant. One tap of the touch-screen opens an email and a flick of the thumb takes you to the chain of messages in the conversation. It’s classy and liquid smooth.
The new handset distributed at the conference, called the Dev Alpha, was given to developers. Though RIM was clear that this is not final hardware, the styling was pretty neat, a shrunken version of the PlayBook, with high-resolution 4.2in display and highly tactile feel. Apart from offering industrial design consistent with the PlayBook, it looked slick enough to be released as a final product.
The real key to whether BlackBerry 10 will succeed is timing. If it’s not released until September or October, as is rumoured, it will face stiff competition from the next iPhone and latest version of Windows Phone. Later than that and it’s hard to see how it can turn things around for the company. Before then, and BlackBerry might be back in the game.

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