4 takeaways on RIM's BlackBerry 10 preview

Will new features like a touch-oriented interface and a predictive keyboard win back users?

By TheWeek.com May 3, 2012 1:12PM

On Tuesday, floundering gadgetmaker Research in Motion (RIMM) offered a preview of its new operating system, BlackBerry 10 (BB10), for its signature line of smartphones. Somewhat surprisingly, the video demo revealed "an elegant, fluid, feature-filled touch experience,"says Kevin C. Tofel at GigaOm. In recent years, the Canadian manufacturer has struggled to keep pace with flashier devices from Apple (APPL) and Android, with many critics predicting a bleak end for the erstwhile king of smartphones.

 

Could BB10, set to ship in October, help resurrect RIM? Here, four things critics are buzzing about:

 

1. Touch is in
Previous versions of BlackBerry OS placed the physical keyboard "front and center" says Alex Colon at PC Mag. But BB10 is "primarily for use on touch screen-based devices." Past BlackBerries without physical keyboards were slow and stodgy. Clearly, though, the company is looking to wrangle consumers away from iPhone and Android, and is "focusing heavily on gestures to move between and within apps," says Dieter Bohn at The Verge


2. And there's plenty of eye-candy
"The Home screen will have big graphical tabs for application shortcuts that will display real time information," says CNET's Brian Bennet. It looks a bit like Android's widgets, with a few cues taken from Windows' colorful tiles. "The platform is exactly what RIM needed to deliver, and looks fantastic,"says GigaOm's Tofel.


3. The new keyboard is digital ... and superior
The new touchscreen keyboard "looks really stellar," says The Verge's Bohn. BB10 lets you "swipe up on a letter to automatically type a suggested word," which seems like a "more powerful" solution than Apple's auto-correct. That's key for RIM's target audience, says CNET's Bennet, as messaging and efficiency are "mission critical skills for corporate warriors." Still, actually typing on the touchscreen keyboard looks agonizingly slow compared to the BlackBerry's "fantastic" physical keyboards, says Matt Buchanan at BuzzFeed. Maybe it was just poor video direction, but we really hope pressing keys on the BB10 is "better and slicker than this."


4. BlackBerry is desperate for apps
Developing third-party applications for BlackBerry is "typically an afterthought for developers," says Britain's Telegraph, especially with the more profitable Apple App Store and Google Play (GOOG) offering much larger audiences. Yet RIM realizes it needs apps to stay relevant, and is offering BB10 developers $10,000 in guaranteed revenue if they finish by the time the phones ship. If the app fails to score $10,000, RIM will cut a check for the unearned balance. "Of course, there's a little bit of a catch," says Eric Zeman at InformationWeek. The app must be a "certified BlackBerry 10" app, and no one is quite sure what that means. Plus, the app must earn at least $1,000 to qualify, so "free apps and crappy apps" need not apply.


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