RIM’s BlackBerry World conference kicked off a short while ago with a keynote address by its CEO Thorsten Heins. As expected, he offered attendees the first glimpse of BlackBerry 10. It will not be an exaggeration to say that RIM’s survival depends on BlackBerry 10. The once assailable BlackBerry brand has almost been written off by most pundits, and consumers are flocking to Android and iOS powered devices. A completely revamped BlackBerry is Research in Motion’s last hope.
Unfortunately, the new BlackBerry platform is still far from being ready, and in the meanwhile, RIM can do little more than sit and watch helplessly as it continues to bleed. BlackBerry 10 devices are slated to show up only towards the end of this year. However, the good news is that RIM finally appears to be making the right moves.
The new BlackBerry OS will be designed to operate as a full touchscreen device; however, variants with physical QWERTY keyboards are also likely. Typing on Blackberry devices has always been a joy, and RIM has put in an extra amount of effort to ensure that the same remains true even for Blackberry 10 handsets without a physical keyboard. The new onscreen keyboard has all the usual bells and whistles like a prediction engine. But unlike in other phones, Blackberry will overlay the predictions right over the key you will have to type next.
The new platform, which is based on QNX, will feature a gesture driven interface that will enable quick and effortless switching between apps, notifications, and documents with the flick of a finger. Even though the OS is far from being ready, it’s still incredibly snappy. Everything that was demoed today exuded a fluidness that’s still absent from most Android devices. Low latency is one of the things that RIM put a lot of effort on, and it appears that the architectural decisions they made paid off.
RIM is also providing all the conference attendees a BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha developer testing device. The device is a sample unit meant to help developers in getting a head start. Somewhat disappointingly, it doesn’t ship with BlackBerry 10 OS. It currently runs a modified version of the Playbook OS, with some of the hooks and calls that will be part of BB10. The test device sports a 4.2″ touchscreen display with 1024×768 pixel resolution, NFC, microSD, and quad-band HSPA.