RIM’s in a bit of a state. There’s no denying that, despite the weird marketing moves and the smoke-and-mirrors statistics tweaking, the company’ future is hanging in the balance. And there’s only one thing that can help it out of this funk: new hardware and new software. Thankfully, then, it’s just unveiled exactly that. Can it turn things around?
What you’re looking at here is the future of BlackBerry. The phone, which goes by the name of the BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha, is a prototype handset designed to carry the developer build of the BlackBerry 10 OS. while it looks exactly like a miniature PlayBook, it won’t actually be seeing the light of day – it’s merely a shell to show what RIM’s next platform can do.
And what can it do? Operate without a physical keyboard for starters. RIM is ditching the physical QWERTY keyboard for good, putting those days behind it in favour of a new touch keyboard that has predictive input options. See the word you’re about to type appear above the keyboard letter? Swipe it up the screen to select it.
RIM used SwiftKey in PlayBook 2.0, and it looks like similar tech is in play here. We’ve asked, but SwiftKey can neither confirm nor deny their involvement. Elsewhere the OS looks fairly unfinished but did proffer some nice features, like the ability to swipe left to pull back the screen you’re on like a curtain. Behind it will be your journey through the phone.
“Nobody else out there can do this,” RIM’s CEO Thorsten Heins at today’s BlackBerry World keynote speech. “We stream all feeds to one place – no worries where they come from, you have them all in one place.”
“Our target customers are hyper-connected,” said Heins. According to the company, the “77 million BlackBerry People” access social networks more than any other smartphone platform users. And it’s that term – ‘BlackBerry People’ – which is interesting here.
It seems as though RIM is giving up on chasing new customers altogether. The thrust of the keynote was all about being “Laser focussed” on meeting the expectations of ‘BlackBerry People’, rather than attracting new people. There’s always something to be said for keeping your loyal customers happy, but is this noticeable shift an admission of failure?
Either way, we’ll have to wait and see how BlackBerry 10, and its final hardware, shapes up when the first proper phones ship towards the end of the year. Are you impressed, optimistic, worried or pitying? Let us know your thoughts below.