BlackBerry 10 Platform Kicks Off BlackBerry World
ORLANDO, Fla. BlackBerry maker Research In Motion packed a convention center here May 1, offering the world its first glimpse of the RIM BlackBerry 10 platform and its newest BlackBerry smartphone, the Alpha Dev. Final versions of both will be out later this year.
RIM also showed off a bit of its new CEO, Thorsten Heins, who in January stepped up from a very behind-the-scenes chief operating officer role to replace longtime co-CEOs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis.
"Until this year, I've sat myself in the audience with you," the Germany-born Heins told an enthusiastic crowd in his opening remarks. He also buttered them up a bit.
BlackBerry users, Heins said, are all about success: "You respond faster, you're agile, you're nimble ... BlackBerry creates success and lets you take care of your business. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the core of BlackBerry, and I'm proud to be a part of a company ... that helps people to achieve success on a daily basis."
BlackBerry users, it turns out are, really are rather super users. Heins flashed through a list of statistics: They download more apps than users on other platforms (34 percent to 22 percent on other devices) and access more productivity tools (91 percent to 65 percent of users on other platforms).
The challenge for RIM now is to convince more people to become BlackBerry users.
With BlackBerry 10, Mobile Fusion and close ties to the PlayBook, they just might achieve this.
RIM Must Convince More People to Become Users
In one short demonstration, Vivek Bhardwaj, head of software at RIM, showed off improvements to the BlackBerry keyboard: As a user types, word options float over the user's fingers; a quick upward swipe sends the word sailing up into the email or instant message.
"We're increasing responsiveness, reducing latency, making sure you can type fast and accurately," said Bhardwaj. Further, the keyboard becomes more tailored to the user with time.
The platform layout nods more to the Microsoft Windows Phone style of tiles than to Android or Apple iOS icons. But more impressive, all the apps run at once, layering over each other. Returning to an app is as simple as swiping aside the current app to reveal the one behind it. They move gently. It's possible to see three at once, or pull email aside slightly, say, to take a peek at Twitter.
"Everything flows," said Heins. "No app stops: they layer and you can slide back and forth. That is the power of BlackBerry 10: No one else can do this. We stream all apps to one place ... We are making you really agile and nimble with BlackBerry. That is the design paradigm."
RIM paraded out a number of partners (including Salesforce.com, Cisco Systems, Appcelerator and Citrix Systems), but also--and a little surprisingly, considering that RIM has said part of its strategy for staunching the bleeding will be focusing more intently on its enterprise customers--gave a good amount of time to gaming and publishing partners: Gameloft, FishLabs and Martha Stewart Living. Several made announcements.
Pacemaker CEO Jonas Norberg announced that his company has created an app that offers the full DJ experience (users can cross-fade between devices, etc.) on a PlayBook. At its BlackBerry World booth, Pacemaker will be offering free beta versions of the app.
PixelMags, which works with publishers to offer a number of popular magazine titles, announced that users of its app will have access to 10 minutes of free viewing across its catalog of titles every month. Users can also purchase unlimited plans, as well as an offline mobile version for viewing its pubs while on a flight, for example.
Nick Barnett, CEO of Mippin, the world's largest application developer platform--who also shared that BlackBerry users account for nearly 70 percent of downloads for apps available across multiple platforms--said that Mippen now offers a beta version for BlackBerry. Anyone, he said, can build a free BlackBerry app in less than 10 minutes.
Finally, RIM also had an announcement. Its Mobile Fusion solution--which enables enterprises to securely support not just BlackBerry smartphones but iPhones and Android devices--will by this time next year (an eternity in tech time) come in three options: on-premise, hosted and managed, and in the cloud.