Research in Motion’s launch of their new Blackberry 10 devices may not have been a total surprise to some, but the announcement that the Canadian company will be changing their name to simply Blackberry during their press event in New York city certainly raised a few eyebrows.
Research in Motion’s (or rather Blackberry’s) CEO Thorten Heins stated that with Blackberry 10 “We have reinvented the company, and we want to represent this in our brand.” It is a move that makes sense, most consumers wouldnt even know who RiM are, however, as with the Blackberry 10 devices one has to wonder whether it is too little too late for the flagging company.
Blackberry announced two new devices to showcase the capabilites of its new operating system the Z10 and the Q10. The Z10 is a full touch screen phone with a 1280 x 769 resolution, a dual-core CPU, 2GB RAM and 16GB of storage. The specs certainly arent likely to wow anyone but given that Windows Phone runs with no noticible lag on similar hardware, Blackberry 10 should be just fine. The phone also has a rear mounted 8 megapixel camera which shoots 1080p HD video as well as a front-facing 2mpx camera for 720p video chatting.
The UK market will be the first to get their hands on the Z10, set to launch on Thursday, while it will not go on sale until March in the US. Early pricing points to a $199 figure, subsidised by a two year contract, so its not the cheapest around either, nevertheless, prices may vary per carrier.
Meanwhile the Q10 is a more traditional Blackberry affair, with a QWERTY keyboard and small 3.1in (720px square) screen. Blackberry stated that users wanted a phone with a physical keyboard and they claim that the Q10 will offer the best typing experience on any smartphone. Whether those users who want a physical keyboard will be enough to sustain the company and win back some of the market share they previously had remains up in the air. Perhaps the Q10’s redeeming feature is its specially constructed glass back, which looks stylish.
These two devices may not make or break Blackberry, however, the company are betting their future on the new Blackberry 10 Operating System. The software was due to launch last year after the disaster that was Blackberry 7. Heins told the assembled press:
“Two years ago we had to make a very serious decision. Adopt someone else’s platform or build a whole new one from ground up for Blackberry. And we made the tough call to go it alone. Bringing an entirely new platform to the market and ushering this company through a really difficult transition took careful planning and we absolutely knew it was risky.”
The operating system is built around touch flow. Users will swipe between applications rather than jumping in and out of them as with other devices. It will also offer “true multi-tasking” running up to eight applications at once, with four able to run side by side on the same screen. The new Blackberry hub brings together notifications and emails from all your social networks and Blackberry messenger now features video and audio messaging as well as screen sharing.
The touchscreen keyboard on the Z10 is said to be adaptive learning the words and phrases the user most often types as well as learning to anticipate and correct frequently made mistakes. Early impressions are that the keyboard is something Blackberry have really nailed, as is the browser that performs well in most tests.
The strength of any ecosystem is largely down to the number of applications available, and Blackberry have proudly boasted that there will be 70,000 applications available at launch. However, being so late to the game, this is still well behind the giants of Apple and Google and has largely been boosted by incentives Blackberry have been offering to developers to port their apps to the Blackberry world. The key will be whether they can promote sustained growth of the ecosystem.
Blackberry 10 looks like it has some interesting features, however, its biggest test will be whether it can differentiate itself from rivals. Microsoft have had a hard enough time getting people to try its Windows Phone operating system despite its radical departure from the norm. Blackberry do have a die hard enterprise following, however, as they are finding out it is the consumer market that they need to win over and you have to wonder whether they have had their day.
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