And so, today, RIM announced its Hail Mary – a brand new mobile operating system (well, sort-of new), as well as two new devices. In addition, the Canadian company also officially changed its name from Research In Motion to Blackberry. The first few reviews of Blackberry 10 are already out, and it’s not bad. The problem, however, is that in the case of Blackberry, ‘not bad’ could easily mean ‘not good enough’.
Virtually everything about Blackberry 10 has already been uncovered and detailed before – from its split personality functionality (a work and personal mode) to its gesture-based user interface, all the guts have been spilled across the web the past 12 months. The hardware, too, had been thoroughly leaked and documented online. Blackberry’s official unveiling, then, didn’t tell us a whole lot of new things.
I still think Blackberry 10’s user interface looks cobbled together, unfocused, confusing, uninspiring and outdated – those are harsh words, but luckily, they just cover the looks. In order to judge a user interface properly, it has to be used, and I’ll be trying my best to get my hands on a Blackberry 10 device to do just that. The reviews state that it works, and that’s about it. It’s nothing revolutionary or earth-shattering, so I’m guessing none of us will have any issues finding our way when we pick one up.
Now, there are a number of interesting features I’m honestly looking forward to, most important of which is true multitasking. Blackberry 10 runs on QNX – my QNX – and comes with honest-to-god, big boy, grownup multitasking. None of that wishy-washy My First Multitasking that many other platforms employ because they’re all server-class operating systems shoved into a mobile device, but the real deal, made possible because of QNX’ embedded origins and focus. Of course, experiences with true multitasking on recent mobile operating systems is so-so due to battery life concerns mostly, but QNX’ embedded nature ought to pose no problems here – unless Blackberry messed up everything above QNX.
And yes, it’s sad that in this day and age, multitasking is considered something special. I was multitasking like a boss ten years ago on Windows Mobile PocketPC Embedded 2003 Compact Standard SP2 Ultimate Special Edition Plus, so I always feel like we regressed a little bit over the years – bouncy scrolling and mobile Facebook or no.
I’m also looking forward to the hardware. I think Blackberry has done a fantastic job designing the Z10 full-touch device, despite initial concerns that it was a bit bland. Seeing it being handled during the unveiling changed my mind, and once they pulled out the beautiful white model, I was sold. Let’s hope this white model won’t become Blackberry’s white N9 – the unicorn phone. True to Blackberry’s history, there’s also a full QWERTY version, the Q10. Availability and pricing will depend on your carrier, and I’ve seen nothing yet about off-contract, unlocked pricing (which is what I would want).
On the whole though, I’m skeptical this will be enough to save Blackberry. It all seems ‘not bad’, but I doubt ‘not bad’ will be good enough. Reviews so far have acknowledged that it does what it is supposed to do, but that it doesn’t really do anything better than any other platform currently out there. And that’s Blackberry’s big problem: in order to gain a foothold, it needs to attract new smartphone buyers as well as iPhone and iOS converts, and without any killer feature over those platforms that’s going to be a very tough sell.
Still, that white Z10… I need more disposable income.