For me, the two most interesting products in the operating system space to look forward to are Windows 8 (due to just how different it is), and BlackBerry OS 10. BlackBerry? Yes, and it’s simple to see why. The BlackBerry Playbook, while not the most successful tablet, seems to be loved almost universally by its users, which bodes well for BB OS 10. On top of that, it’s based on QNX, which is some major brownie points right there. The company has released information on which resolutions the operating system will support.
First of all, I’m actually happy the company isn’t moving towards full-touch all the time. The QWERTY candybar form factor – perfected by RIM – is definitely largely being ignored by Android (let alone iOS and WP7), and while it’s personally not my cup of tea, I know a lot of people who prefer it to this very day. The same applies to the QWERTY slider, by the way, but slightly less so. I don’t want all phones to look the same.
In any case, BlackBerry OS 10 will run on both full touch devices and QWERTY devices. This could be problematic for application developers, since they have to take into account two completely different resolutions and device types. Especially if you take into account RIM’s often old school approach to device portfolio (more devices = better), this could be a potential disaster.
Luckily, RIM is aware of this. “We’ve listened, we’ve learned, and we are now telling you that moving forward new smartphones will be standardizing on the following screen resolutions which will allow you to design your applications to fit two main form factors,” the company’s Tim Neil announced. It’s going to be 1280×720 (for touch devices) and 720×720 (for QWERTY devices). Definitely a boon for developers.
However, they’re not really focussing on just these two resolutions. In a classic inexplicable move, the company’s first BlackBerry OS 10 device will have a resolution of 1280×768, the same as the Dev Alpha device some developers have been having access to. “This first BlackBerry 10 device has been in the works for quite some time now with lots of supply chain management and manufacturing tooling to bring it to launch,” Neil details, “So it’s pretty much a sealed deal.”
So, developers actually have three resolutions to deal with. Neil offers solutions for this problem, too. “Modify your application for each resolution to make use of the full resolution of the different BlackBerry 10 device screen resolutions” or “consider ‘letter boxing’ your app to 1280×720 on the first BlackBerry 10 device, leaving 24 pixels on both sides of the screen, so that you don’t have any changes to make on the next generation full touch screen resolution.”
This is illustrative of why so many companies – other than Samsung – are having difficulties competing with Apple’s iPhone. Can you imagine Apple going for the suboptimal solution just because of “chain management”? Doubly so because we’re not just talking about any phone, but the device which will essentially make or break the entire company. RIM is banking its future on this, and they are already compromising like this?
I’m still looking forward to BlackBerry OS 10, but things like this make me weary. Such a high profile release should not have compromises.