BlackBerry 10 phones, which are due later this year, could be the all-decisive release of the struggling smartphone maker to win back its market share that it lost out to rivals like Apple and Google.
At RIM's annual BlackBerry World conference in Orlando, CEO Thorsten Heins, who took the charge of CEO this February, took center stage to unveil the prototype, BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha.
As the company will not be releasing the BB 10 devices before the last quarter of the year, RIM chose to remain tight-lipped about the device's specs, including processor speed, camera megapixel and display type.
Heins, however, mentioned that the announced features might also get changed at the time of launch. But the major features that are revealed as of now are:
Physical keyboards - Say hello to touch and bye to physical keyboards. Yes! That's the new and most intriguing feature of the new BB 10 devices. Finally, the company is parting from its physical key board.
The news should not dampen the spirit of the all power BlackBerry users as variants with physical QWERTY keyboards are also likely. The company, which has always acknowledged the fact that power users prefer physical keyboard, has put extra effort to ensure that the same remains true even for the new BlackBerry 10 handsets that without physical keyboards by incorporating a new technology of word prediction, an ability to automatically predict the word for people who suffer from "fat thumb" problems and will also apply personal language analysis for better predictions, TechCrunch reported.
Also, Vivek Bhardwaj, RIM's Head of Software Portfolio, has told TechCrunch that the new prediction technology would "basically do a scan of all your personal history, your email, your SMS, Facebook, Twitter - basically every conversation you've ever typed."
RIM's focus shifted to gesture - RIM is focusing heavily on developing a gesture driven interface that will enable the users to move quickly and effortlessly switch between apps, notifications and documents.
New Homescreen - The new home screen shows four "tiles" of information that are related to the apps they represent. Tap on any tile to get inside the app and then swipe to go back to the home screen. As revealed at the conference, the home screen has three persistent buttons at the bottom, Phone, Search and Camera. The top of the screen shows details about radios, alarm, battery life and time. The new screen does not show notifications, which is now visible only by a gesture.
Sliding layers with swipe and 'half swipe' - With the new BB 10 operating system, now you can slide the screen aside to see notifications, slide layers over to get more information, etc. In case you are within an app, just a left to right swipe can take you to the screen to show notifications. A "half-swipe" is also there that can show your unread mails and messages while a full swipe will take you directly into the app.
Camera App - The new BB 10 OS will let you record frames before and after so that you can scrub back and forth to pick the perfect shot from that options.
Apps playing continuous - RIM also mentioned that every app is fully running in the background and is never "paused." They imported this feature from PlayBook.
Wireless streaming of video - A very welcoming feature that BB 10 might have in the final version of the device is that the sample device running on BlackBerry 10 showed to wirelessly stream video.
According to CNET's review of RIM's prototype BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha, the current model is running the modified version of the Playbook OS with some tweaks that can be part of the BB 10. The 4.2-inch phone comes with 1280 x 768-pixel (WXGA) display and 355 ppi density, which knocks down the 326 ppi Retina Display of iPhone 4S. The phone also boasts of 16GB of non-expandable onboard storage (no microSD card slot), 1GB of RAM and a non-removable battery along with connectivity options like Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Internet tethering, near-field communications (NFC) and quad-band HSPA.
Meanwhile, CrackBerry reported that developers, who will create a BB10 app and send back the BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha prototype, will receive a "limited edition" final BB10 smartphone in exchange.
Critics Yawned At RIM's Late Rise
Jonathan S. Geller of Boy Genius Report criticized the latest BlackBerry platform saying innovative but, "wasn't compelling enough, and it's unfortunately too late to try and gain enough traction and support for a third mobile ecosystem."
"RIM is a company that has failed to deliver for the last eight years, and it doesn't deserve another chance to mess it up," he added.
According to Phill Ryu, chief executive of Impending, maker of the to-do list app Clear, "If this is a horse race, RIM is two laps behind and has a lame leg," he said. "Why would I bet my time and money on them?"
What Others Say
As far as applauses go, CNET reported that "The BlackBerry 10 platform is strong. And QNX operating system may be the best mobile platform few use."
Some critics like CNET's Brian Bennett, however, found the new word prediction feature quite impressive and writes, "At first glance it doesn't look like much, just a standard layout with not many options for dual-functions. When you start typing, though - that's when the magic happens. Each letter you tap will cause the phone to display suggested words above the letter it thinks you're most likely to type next."
James Kendrick from ZDNet also appreciated the sliding pane feature saying the feature "has me excited about the potential." He added that "This type of control is really handy on a device when switching from portrait to landscape orientation. It's a great way to optimize what can be displayed in each by simply swiping the panes left and right."
RIM's Future - "Wake(s) Up" or Dooms?
RIM's current situation is quite pale in comparison to all the existing platforms like iOS and Android. The company has reported a loss of $125 million for its fourth-quarter fiscal earnings.
According to mobile market researcher Mobilewalla, RIM is lagging far behind in terms of hosting apps. Big competitors like iOS platform hosts more than 600,000 apps and Android has about 350,000 whereas RIM has only 125,000 apps.
But Heins assured the developers that BlackBerry 10 will be the company's best shot at bringing in new users, give developers a new start and continuing with holding the loyalty of its traditional enterprise customer base.
"We are 100 percent committed to the application partners on our platform," said Martyn Mallick, vice president of global alliances and business development at RIM, who took the stage after Heins and Bhardwaj. "We know enabling your success drives our success."
According to Engadget reports, RIM will invest $100 million to build BlackBerry's app selection, including incentives for developers who create quality apps. For these certified developers, RIM will guarantee a $10,000 payout on any app, provided it generates at least $1,000 on its own.
RIM stock fell with the announcement of BlackBerry 10
According to the last report, RIM's (TSE:RIM) (NASDAQ:RIMM) stock has fallen almost 7 percent after announcing the new BlackBerry 10 platform.