It’s about time. RIM is in deep trouble, and is seeing its smartphone market share being eaten left and right by Android and iOS. After being more or less the equivalent of a deer caught in the headlights, the company has now finally unveiled its answer to the original iPhone – 5 years too late.
Rumours and hints have been swirling around BlackBerry 10 for a while now, but today, RIM unveiled all at its BlackBerry World event in Orlando, Florida. This is an entirely new smartphone operating system, based on QNX, and as such, ditches everything we knew about previous BlackBerry smartphone operating systems. It does, of course, build upon the operating system of RIM’s tablet, the PlayBook.
In all honesty, what we’ve seen so far isn’t revolutionary. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before on Android, iOS, Windows Phone 7 and webOS, and as such, my first reaction is straightforward: too little, too late. It looks great – but so does the competition. It’s fast – but so is the competition. And so on.
True to the RIM’s heritage, the keyboard does some more interesting stuff – but only marginally. As you type on the touch keyboard, you can ‘flick’ suggested words to the text input field as you’re typing. As nice as a feature as it is, it’s just autocomplete, and, well, been there, done that. Too little, too late.
The camera is where RIM’s done some really innovative stuff. “You tap anywhere on the screen to take the picture, then you can use a timeline tool to scrub and select a moment right before or after your shot,” The Verge’s Chris Ziegler explains, “Good for getting rid of a blinking subject, for instance.” Pretty cool.
As far as the SDK goes, I’m already hearing some cheering from the Qt camp. The Cascades SDK, as it’s called, allows you to program in both C++ and QML, or any combination thereof. Other alternatives are possible as well, like HTML5 and native code for more performance-heavy stuff like games. On top of that, RIM has developed a plugin for Photoshop, allowing you to design your entire UI in Photoshop – so you can export it and import it straight into your application.
All in all, while I’m all for a new platform – the more the merrier – I’m wondering what, exactly, BlackBerry 10 has to offer over the competition. iOS has the Apple factor, Android has the openness, freedom to tinker, and customisability, and Windows Phone 7.5 has the uniqueness and quirkiness of Metro. What does BB10 have?
Remember, we’re five years after the launch of the original iPhone, and with a market with two extremely strong contenders, you have to have something unique, something special to set you apart. What’s BB10’s unique selling point?
RIM’s got until October of this year to find out.