On the spot: RIM focuses on future with BlackBerry 10

RIM seems optimistic that BlackBerry 10 will give it an edge and help it regain its lost mojo in the mobile market.

RIM president and CEO Thorsten Heins seemed upbeat and optimistic giving his first ever BlackBerry World keynote this morning. While some--myself included--have questioned whether or not RIM has a future at all, RIM demonstrated throughout the keynote that it believes the future is bright, and it's called BlackBerry 10.

Heins began the BlackBerry World keynote by highlighting smartphone usage statistics. According to the data shared by RIM, the 77 million BlackBerry users around the globe are more engaged with social networking, and interact more from their BlackBerry devices than the averages for smartphones in general.

After the introductory pleasantries, Heins unveiled the BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha device. It's a buttonless slab--bigger than your typical smartphone, but smaller than a PlayBook, which is on the lower end of size for the tablet market. I'd say the BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha device was a 5-inch device, roughly the size of the original Dell Streak, or the Samsung Galaxy Note.

As the name implies, the device is loaded with an early Alpha build of the BlackBerry 10 platform. Attendees of the BlackBerry Jam developer conference that coincides with BlackBerry World will each be given a BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha device to work with.

The world has been waiting for the new and improved BlackBerry platform, and the accompanying devices for some time. Heins explained, "We're taking our time to make sure we get this right."

Makes sense. Microsoft seemed to come quite late to the game with Windows Phone, but it is a solid, innovative platform that was worth the wait. It's much better for RIM to take its time and get it right than to rush to market with a half-baked platform just to get something on the shelf. RIM already tried that--it's called the PlayBook.

RIM demonstrated some of the features and capabilities of BlackBerry 10 during the keynote. It looks fairly impressive. BlackBerry 10 uses a swiped pane interface that reminds me of the Facebook or Twitter apps on the iPad. RIM also showed off an innovative predictive typing capability, and a camera app that captures a segment of time rather than a specific moment--giving you the ability to move back and forth over a few seconds of time to find the best photo.

Heins summed it up with, "It's all about making BlackBerry people more agile."

Does BlackBerry 10 look like the Holy Grail that will return BlackBerry to its former glory, and rightful place of dominance atop the smartphone market? In a word, no. That ship has sailed.

But, perhaps the better question is "Does BlackBerry 10 look capable and innovative enough to excite users and keep BlackBerry in the game?" Yes, I think so.

Assuming BlackBerry 10 is delivered on time, and that the real-world hardware and software deliver an experience close to what RIM demonstrated on stage, it seems to me that RIM will regain some of its lost relevance and keep its place among the top three or four mobile platforms rather than fading into oblivion.

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Tony Bradley

PC World (US online)
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