Can BlackBerry dominate again?

Can BlackBerry dominate again?

Summary: With a number of SDKs for developers, BlackBerry Balance, innovative camera features, and the fastest HTML5 rendering, BlackBerry may have what it takes to come back on top.


I was a BlackBerry user back when it was on the Mobitex network. I remember working on and having business discussions back and forth from my BlackBerry, while waiting in line at the Home Depot. At the time people thought I was way ahead of the curve, and they were right.

Unfortunately, over the years BlackBerry has been eclipsed by iOS and Android, both in the consumer and the enterprise space. But now, that could all change, thanks to BlackBerry 10.

BlackBerry 10 will be officially unveiled on January 30th. Since I've been skeptical about if RIM got it right this time, I reconnected with an old friend, Aaron Ardiri, who is now a Principal Developer Evangelist for RIM in Germany, and challenged him to show me why RIM has a shot this time around.

To say that Aaron blew me away is an understatement. I was not only shown the user experience side of the device, but also treated to a deep dive on the architecture and development environment.

I won't go into too much detail in this article about the features and functions for both developers and consumers, but instead will provide some quick highlights from my two hour conversation / demo.

All developers welcome

RIM wants you to code for BB10. So much so that the company will allow you to bring your own language, for the most part. If you're an HTML5 dev, BB10 offers the best rendering out there. In the demos I was treated to, you couldn't tell that the device wasn't running native code.

If you're an Android dev, use BlackBerry's SDK that repackages your Android apps. Aaron showed me how he could take a signed APK (Android app) and package it up and have it running on the BlackBerry device.

There are a ton of other SDKs out there, too. It's obvious that RIM wants you to come over with what you're comfortable with, before fully adopting their own core SDKs.

You can see all of the cool SDKs available on BlackBerry's developer micro sites.

BlackBerry Balance

If you use your device for both work and home, I'm sure that you have wished you could separate the two. Now RIM is offering a way with BlackBerry Balance. Using BlackBerry Balance, you can have photos, apps and even BlackBerry World for both work and home, but they're basically partitioned into separate areas of the phone. Now you can hand your phone to your child or friend, and not have them access your work stuff. This is actually a huge bonus, and something that Apple and Google are missing. Microsoft has Kid's Corner, but it's still not the same as having a separate "perimeter", as Aaron called it. You can seamlessly switch between the two, as if they're just two apps that are open at the same time.

BlackBerry Browser / HTML5

Aaron showed off some games and apps running in HTML5, and then similar ones running in native. I definitely couldn't tell the difference between the two. What I really like about this, though, is that BlackBerry could very well be the catalyst for HTML5 acceptance. The code remains the same, but the rendering speed and efficiency has been improved. If other browsers and OS's follow suit, HTML5 could finally get the adoption kick it really needs.

BlackBerry camera

As you might expect, the camera takes photos and full HD video, but where it innovates is "time shift". You can take a picture and then move back in time to grab the moment where eyes were open or faces were smiling. As cameras have gone digital and support video capture, this has most likely been possible, but now BlackBerry is offering it up as standard. I think it's very cool. It basically can create a moment of time that never existed, by merging multiple photos (faces) into a single photograph.

BlackBerry Hub

We all get notifications via e-mail, SMS, Twitter, Facebook, Linked-In, etc.. Now there's a centralized place for all of it. This is not a new concept, but it's execution is pretty solid. A quick swipe gives you instant access to all of the notifications, and you can interact with them, or just swipe back to what you were doing before.

BlackBerry keyboard

The onscreen keyboard looks pretty intuitive. Aaron showed off typing, on a fresh device. So, it had no time to learn Aaron's typing, but yet the predictive nature of it was spot on.

In summary, I wasn't that interested in BlackBerry 10 since I figured that RIM was just playing catch-up. After seeing the demo today, it's clear that RIM invested in reaching parity, but then going beyond what we expect in a mobile OS today.

I'm definitely excited to see what's officially announced this week, as Aaron has promised that I haven't seen anything yet. Also, more than 40,000 apps are currently in the review process, so you can pretty much guarantee that your favorite app will be available on BlackBerry World on launch day.

Topics: BlackBerry, Android, Apple, Google, iOS

Joel Evans

About Joel Evans

With more than 15 years of mobile, Internet and wireless experience, Joel specializes in taking existing brands and technologies into the mobile and wireless space. Joel is currently the VP of Strategy Integration for Mobiquity, an enterprise-class mobile solutions provider.

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  • Sadly, too late, with too little time, too little cash

    Its sounds like it's going to be a nice phone and all, but they need a hit and quick, as they have little else to sustain them should adoption start slow.
    William Farrel
    • Aren't they profitable right now?

      If so, they really can take a slower road.
      x I'm tc
    • Confusing

      The title says one thing and the text says another. "Too late" is one situation and "needing a hit and quick" is a different situation. If they do have a quick hit (unlike MS I might add) it will not have been "too late, with too little time, too little cash".

      Are these challenging concepts to you? Is this standard shill IQ fare?
      • LOL!

        "Why is it that when robots are stored in an empty space, they will group together, rather than stand alone?"
        William Farrel
      • He's inferring the phone isn't a stand out

        I think the OP is assuming this phone won't be a hit. Like another poster, he's probably basing it on the fact that these features majorly differentiating.

        I like the office/home mode, but there was no mention of whether the office mode could be password protected. If it's not, than it's not much different from swiping between different screens. Or making a folder called work on your home screen. Predictive text doesn't sound like a huge leap. Blackberry Hub, similar to notification centers. Ability to code with HTML 5 - not much different than what I've seen on other phones rendering HTML 5 - I'd like a side by side comparison.

        All in all, BlackBerry 10 looks like a huge improvement over past BlackBerry OS's but not over Android/iOS. These features are great, but iOS and Android also have great features that aren't in BlackBerry 10 - like PhotoStreams, AirPlay, Google Now, Siri. If BlackBerry wants back into the consumer space, they need something as big as the iPhone had over it's competition when it began syphoning away market share.
        • the Home/Work mode is totally different from having a folder

          The keyboard is a big differentiation from other touch/predictive keyboard. Having the next predicted word on top of the key you going to press and not above the keyboard will help to increase the typing speed. The office mode could be password protected. Both Office and Home mode are sandboxed, IT can remote wipe the Office portion without affecting anything on the Home side. Notification centre opens the message app when you want to read a message, the Hub is a message centre always running underneath. The Blackberry 10 will have voice control ( and it will support DLNA for video streaming - which means it uses an industrial standard and you don't have pay extra for a device for the streaming to work on your tv.
        • personal / work perimeter - completely separate

          both perimeters are stored completely separate. if your BES administrator decided to wipe your device; it will only wipe the work perimeter, and leave your private photos, videos, email alone. you can lock your work perimeter at any time, and opening the applications or email will require you to type a password. stay tunes for the launch on January 30!
  • Unlikely!

    Unfortunate but niche only.

    Lots of improvements but still, lacks a soul into this new UX.
    You don't build a phone revolution on top of a dual mode (work/office) feature and some overhyped multi-tasking abilities.

    Domination, no. Niche, probably.
  • I dont see anything that says WOW!

    You need to WOW the masses of dopes in this country, not with facts or figures, but flashy lights and shiney objects.

    Look at how we support Obama, a joke of a man, but shiney and flashy.

    They will have to release it 6-8 months before the usual next iphone hype starts to even have a chance.
  • No

    No, next.
    • yes

      yes please...
  • I have some hope

    They are not going to be Apple, even less android, but they can still be a solid number 3.
    Qnx is a good base, they had the time to do the job without rushing, in some markets they are still well regarded, ... It's not going to be easy for them for sure, but I think they still have chances.
  • Sick

    I want a BB10!

    It could beat iPhone. Android beat iPhone. iPhone beat BB. BB killed Palm. All were late relative to something. BB was late to the cell phone game but the first smartphone. iPhone was ancient to cell phone, late to smartphone, but first to incorporate touch. Android beat everyone on price so if you are poor you can still be connected. Whoever says you can be late in technology even if you come out with a better or unique product deserves to be shot. They clearly are just brand advocates pushing for their own personal feelings towards a specific product. They are not marketers clearly.
  • it is unlikely to dominate again

    but it could regain its status as a relevant player in the phone market. If RIM succeeds at solidifying its position as the number 3 platform behind Android and IOS, then where does that leave WinPhone?

    There has been speculation that Lenovo is interested in buying RIM. That could be a game changer for both RIM and Lenovo. Lenovo has deep pockets and expertise at low cost manufacturing. RIM would give Lenovo an entry into the mobile market along with an operating system that could be applied to tablets and other mobile devices.

    It will be interesting to watch
    • agree

      RIM will not dominate, but it is far from death IMO. Those who thinks RIM is dying because they see RIM as a phone manufacturer. RIM did not start as a phone manufacturer, it is a mobile computing solution provider.
  • I told you so, BlackBerry comeback.

    Looking forward to the launch, have already preordered two Z10. Having a desktop browser experience is what sold me plus with all the apps available will be icing on the cake.

    Looking forward to January 30 launch event, wonder what surprises are in store.
  • Can BlackBerry dominate again?

    Please tell my who is "again". Or did you intend to write "Can BlackBerry again dominate"?
    • Nice grammar lesson.

      I didn't notice the word swap until you pointed it out. BTW: Who is "my"? Or did you intend to write... Please tell ME who is "again".
  • How does Time Shift differ from what is available on the GS3?

    GS3 has the ability to shoot multiple frames and choose the best one out of the series. Is there a difference between this capability and Time Shift?
    • The writer explains time shift

      The last sentence in the camera section explains how timeshift allows you to take the best parts of a series of photos and merge them to get the perfect picture:

      "It basically can create a moment of time that never existed, by merging multiple photos (faces) into a single photograph."

      We have had to do this very painstakingly when trying to get a extended family photo with many kids/nieces/nephews - seemed every shot had someone blinking or turning or frowning etc. This will let you take a perfect smile from one photo and merge it onto another where everyone else is looking good. This should be cool, and as he mentioned - create a moment in time that never happened - we did this in one family photo when not everyone could get together at once. We took the picture, leaving a little extra room on one end. When the missing couple came, we setup the camera the same and took their picture, and then photoshopped them in, and sent everyone the updated photo :-)