RIM Unveils BlackBerry OS 7.0, Bold 9900, 9930

Well, this is a bit surprising. Research In Motion, which isn’t exactly doing well at this point, has just launched version 7.0 of the BlackBerry OS. Curiously enough, this release has nothing to do with the QNX-based operating system of the PlayBook.

BlackBerry OS 7.0 comes as part of two new phones announced by Research In Motion, namely the BlackBerry 9900 and 9930, which are classic-style BlackBerry devices (complete with keyboard), but this time with a touch screen. They also sport a 1.2Ghz processor, support for NFC, and something RIM calls a Liquid Graphics touch screen. This screen has a 640×480 resolution on a 2.8″ diagonal – so an impressive 287ppi. It also does HD video.

As for BlackBerry OS 7.0, it’s not, as you may expect, the phone version of the PlayBook operating system – instead, it is an evolution of the ‘old’ BlackBerry OS 6.0, and comes with an improved browser, which has a new JIT-compiler for JavaScript. There’s apparently also a software side to the Liquid Graphics thing, as RIM mentions graphics performance – both for games as well as the user interface – has improved as well thanks to the technology. I’m guessing they either worked on or replaced the graphics stack in the BB OS.

The bad news for existing BlackBerry users – whose numbers are rising visibly here in The Netherlands due to aggressive advertising – is that BlackBerry OS 7.0 is not compatible with current devices. This means that the only way to get it is to buy a new BlackBerry 9900 or 9930.

While it’s of course great that RIM is still toiling away on the BlackBerry operating system, the lack of compatibility with existing devices (or at least some of them) puzzles me. They’re working on bringing the QNX-based PlayBook operating system to regular smartphones, yet they expect BlackBerry owners to buy a completely new device for a release of an operating system which is going to be a dead end soon? And what about developers? They’re expected to code for the new capabilities of BB OS 7.0, knowing it’s a dead end?

It all seems a bit curious to me – the hardware looks damn impressive here, but is a rather limited update, which is only available on new devices, really enough to stop the overall exodus of BB users?


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