Research In Motion today made a series of announcements at its annual BlackBerry developer conference. PhoneNews.com was there and takes an in-depth look at the changes, both technical and in the competitive landscape, in this expanded report.
At today’s keynote, BlackBerry X (BBX) clearly took center stage, as expected. RIM needed to show that its developers have a future platform to target and build upon. Recent platform enhancements such as BlackBerry OS 7 have done little to improve consumer and developer confidence, often being compared to Symbian Anna; an update to a platform with no future.
Unfortunately, little was disclosed about BBX beyond its existing QNX and PlayBook underpinnings. The new BBX platform will essentially carry over innovations from the BlackBerry PlayBook platform to phones, and then unify all BlackBerry devices – phone and tablet, on one modern platform. RIM did tout that all the functionality on PlayBook will be carried over, including full Flash, Android compatibility, and multitasking of applications.
RIM did give developers a new platform to target, giving all attendees a BlackBerry PlayBook with beta 2.0 firmware. (Full disclosure, we got one too — more soon).
Competitively, BBX will bring RIM back to the table in terms of having both a competitive platform, and strong positioning against rivals. First, RIM will have the only Real Time OS that supports sideloading. Rival Apple enforces a walled garden over its real-time iOS, and Google’s Android runs a forked version of Java, limiting its ability to perform real-time multitasking.
Having a real-time OS that supports side loading may sound like geek to most, but it is important in wooing over tech-savvy consumers and evangelists, that look for less restrictions on devices. If RIM can win back these customers over iOS, Android, and Windows Phone, it will help RIM tremendously. The most informed wireless users, in recent years, have been the ones least likely to recommend RIM outside of corporate and security environments. This advent alone could turn that tide.
Additionally, RIM will continue to support Java, bridging a peace that will enable RIM to woo over Java embedded companies and services to support BlackBerry easily, as well as allow it to possibly be the only legitimate platform that runs Android applications. Oracle’s continued legal threats and litigation over the sustainability of the Android platform presents a huge risk to Android manufacturers.
Still, questions remain. RIM is still developing BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) for other platforms. No timeframe has been given for BBX, but all indications are BBX-powered phones will be announced early next year. Unlike Palm’s failure with webOS however, RIM does have a steady and stable platform that will continue to provide the funding necessary to emerge the platform without opening it up to third parties.
Finally BBX could emerge as a potent rival to Windows Phone and Android. With Windows Phone continuing to struggle in gaining traction, BlackBerry App World being a profitable App Store for developers, and Android remaining in legal turmoil, RIM could easily offer BBX to other manufacturers — if it wants to. The good news for RIM is, at least at this point, they don’t have to.