Can BlackBerry dominate again?

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.
Written by Joel Evans, Contributor

I was a BlackBerry user back when it was on the Mobitex network. I remember working on Geek.com 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.

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