Tag Archives: RIM

BlackBerry 10: Moving on from PlayBook

Roger Cheng at CNET:

You can’t accuse RIM of rushing out BlackBerry 10. If anything, the operating system is way overdue. But the company has clearly spent the time to work out the kinks, and the early experience with the software has been pleasantly surprising.

RIM isn’t aping a trend or trying something completely new with BlackBerry 10, it’s actually focusing on its core smartphone product.

Absolutely, BlackBerry 10 is no PlayBook because the former is software and the latter is a device and that pretty much ends any debate from the literal perspective. But points taken: the PlayBook was rushed (although it was also late) while BlackBerry 10 has not been (we hope). Further, while the PlayBook was a one-off in an incremental market for RIM, BlackBerry 10 is a foundational technology for the company that it expects will last the next decade the way OS X has (and iOS is on track to).

An even greater issue for the PlayBook than those that Roger cites, however, including carrier acceptance, was developer acceptance (the two are of course related).  As a technology underpinning, BlackBerry 10 is, in fact, an evolution of the PlayBook OS (somewhat like OS X was an evolution of the Darwin project). However, BlackBerry 10 will, as Roger notes, enjoy the advantage of being on RIM’s higher-volume handsets rather than breaking into a new category.

With the Android market coalescing around Samsung with some HTC and Windows Phone doing the same with Nokia and HTC, certainly there will be at least one domestic carrier willing to give the new devices a try. Still, no matter how successful RIM’s developer evangelism is, there are bound to be many gaps at launch as there was for Windows Phone.The nightmare scenario is not that BlackBerry 10 will be the PlayBook, but that it will be webOS.

Keyboard input: right from RIM’s playbook

Clearly, a $120 keyboard add-on for RIM’s PlayBook won’t be enough to immediately reverse the fortunes of RIM’s tablet, a product that now bears the burden of carrying RIM from the glory days of the BlackBerry 7 legacy to its future of BlackBerry 10.

Indeed, the peripheral, at best, brings the PlayBook closer to par with integrated keyboard offerings designed for products such as the iPad and ASUS Transformer line. Nonetheless, the PlayBook keyboard in its neat little netbookesque shell, should appeal to RIM’s core; many of these folks are QWERTY junkies. It always struck me as a serious omission that RIM did not provide a keyboard companion for the PlayBook. Of course, its 7” display creates design challenges in terms of making an effective input device that matches the width of the device.

But in case you were hoping that RIM had shifted its marketing focus away from the enterprise, a decision that led to shipping the device with the consumer-unfriendly first version of BlackBerry Bridge, there’s little to report. The video showing off the accessory demonstrates… Citrix client.. It’s not even clear from the video if the keyboard works with the kind of native Playbook apps that RIM is so ardently seeking to woo, much less RIM’s own, recently upgraded Docs to Go suite that is a nice differentiator for the device.

Seesmic sees BlackBerry later

Last week’s announcement that Seesmic would not discontinue support for its social network client for BlackBerry demonstrated the challenges that RIM has faced competing for developer attention. With iOS and Android far in the lead, Microsoft pushing hard for Windows Phone, and HP seeking to attract developers to as it evolves the webOS multi-device platform strategy, few developers have the resources to create quality omnipresent work, and something has to give.

The news was not as bleak as it seems on face value, though. First, Seesmic was competing against RIM’s own well-designed (as BlackBerry apps go these days) Twitter client. Second, third-party Twitter clients are in a precarious position on several mobile platforms. Apple, Microsoft and others are integrating Twitter into their mobile operating systems. And Twitter the corporate entity has scooped up TweetDeck, the most prominent competitor to the Seesmic software, following its previous acquisition of Tweetie, now the official Twitter client for Apple devices.

Nevertheless, while RIM has done what it can to smooth the road to the promising Playbook by supporting AIR and Android apps, it’s going to be a harder sell until a native BlackBerry tablet OS SDK is available and – more critically — until it can bring that QNX-based platform to its smartphones.

PlayBook marks an auspicious platform birth

Most of the reviews of the BlackBerry PlayBook remind me a lot of the first reviews of Motorola Xoom. “It’s no iPad.” Yes, we know, and so do RIM and Motorola and Google. You don’t need to turn on either device to know there would be a significant app and feature gap deficiency versus Apple’s pioneering slate that has since had a year to mature. Yes, the PlayBook lacks e-mail and calendaring for the moment. Oh, by the way, the Xoom and PlayBook both multitask out of the box. Did the first iPad? No, buyers had to wait half a year for that feature.

But the PlayBook is far more significant for RIM than the Xoom was for Google. Honeycomb is a major new release of Android, no doubt. But while the user experience of Android had room to improve (and still does), it didn’t have nearly as far to go to become a satisfying user experience as the BlackBerry OS does. That’s more on the scale of the leap that Microsoft took from Windows Mobile to Windows Phone 7.

And, based on that burden, it seems that RIM has nailed the basics, taking some of the UI concepts in BlackBerry 6 and making refining them while adding the visual thumbnails from webOS. The user experience of the BlackBerry Tablet OS (OK, still some refining left to do on the naming) is as slick, simple, responsive and engaging as anything on the market. Bezel gestures strike me as far more intuitive than webOS’s gesture bar. And despite RIM’s decision to go with the BlackBerry Bridge option before developing native PIM apps, the OS itself is more feature-complete than, say, the first version of Windows Phone 7.

I’m not sure how well it will all translate to handsets, but it is exactly what the BlackBerry needs to stem the tide of its user exodus. If RIM can execute on that fusion, it is back in the game.

RIM’s also done a solid job with the PlayBook hardware. I prefer the vertical orientation of the iPad and Galaxy Tab, and (of course) Nook. The PlayBook, though – and most of the bigger Android tablets — seem to be going for a horizontal orientation by default. Of course, this is more of a curiosity than anything else. Yes, the on button is a little hard to press, but even with the paucity of apps, RIM has the best 7” tablet on the market right now.

The WIRE: Week of April 26, 2010

Each week, The WIRE tracks my contributions to other publications and Web sites.

image CNet
No Flash flood in iPad Avoidance, 4/28
In my Volume Up blog, I shared one of the findings from NPD’s recent iPad perceptions and attitudes study (PDF), in which the lack of Adobe Flash was not a leading inhibitor  among those who said they were not interested in the iPhone. The day after, Steve Jobs published his Thoughts on Flash essay, reinforcing the reasons why Apple’s mobile products will continue to ban both Flash and Flash cross-compilers.

Switched On: Revamps in Motion, 4/27
In my weekly Switched On column, I discussed the approach RIM is taking toward evolving the BlackBerry OS, contrasting it to the overhauls that Microsoft and Palm opted for. Given the news this week that HP will be acquiring Palm, the handset company’s gamble was not sustainable given its resources, but was a valuable asset to HP. Given RIM’s position in the marketplace, an evolutionary approach that keeps it competitive without risking much may be a winning strategy.

Gadgets and Games 4/30
I was a guest on Clayton Morris’s Gadgets and Games, where we discussed many of the big stories of the week with fellow guests Andy Ihnatko and Seth Porges. These included the war of words between Adobe and Apple, HP’s acquisition of Palm, and the release of the Sony Dash, which we had on the program.

imageNPD Group Blog
Tunnels to the Television, 4/26
My first post at the NPD Group Blog this week was a response to my colleague Paul Gagnon’s post on the DisplaySearch blog regarding the future of Hulu and the television. In the post, I discussed the increase NPD has seen in networked content devices that stream music and video around a home network and across the Internet.

E-Reader Distribution Deals Kindle Sales Beyond a Nook, 4/28
This post discussed the implications of the broadening distribution of e-readers with the Nook landing at Best Buy and the Kindle landing at Target. My colleague Steve Baker had an insightful follow-up.

BlackBerry 9670 shows RIM won’t clam up

imageOne of the less successful handsets RIM has launched in the past few years was the BlackBerry Pearl Flip. The phone seemed like a throwback to a form factor from which American consumers – at least smartphone consumers – had moved on. But if the documented rumors from Boy Genius Report are true, RIM may be mounting another attack on the clamshell with the 9670. RIM would be demonstrating a continued commitment to push into other form factors beyond its classic QWERTY candy bar of the Curve and Tour.

Putting a full-QWERTY keyboard onto a squarish device that opens in some way has been tried by several manufacturers. There’s been the Verizon Blitz (by PCD), the Motorola Hint and Karma, the Nokia Twist, and the forthcoming Microsoft Kin One. The 9670, though, looks like a longer device, perhaps more akin to the Samsung Propel Pro or Palm Pre.

But I still like the idea of a QWERTY device in a clamshell, like the LG Lotus offered exclusively at Sprint. Some consumers simply prefer ending calls by closing the phone. And compared to sliders, clamshells let you have an exterior display while controls and perhaps the touch screen are protected from accidental activation without having to lock the phone, and may be a more comfortable upgrade for consumers who have spent years with clamshells like the Motorola RAZR..

What’s in store for smartphone applications

imageAt Mobile World Congress, Nokia and Microsoft joined  Apple, RIM, Google and Palm in announcing that they’ll be supporting application stores or marketplaces for their operating systems or handsets. This should result in easier discoverabiliy of functionality for consumers and could further reward developers who have been lured by development funds. While the verdict is still out on whether the horse will pay to drink, Apple has brought the water to it..

However, there’s also an opportunity to build upon what Apple has done with its iPhone-based App Store, which started as a clean experience and still provides good exposure for popular and highlighted software. But many applications have gotten lost in the crowd.

To be fair, Apple has done a better job of providing exposure for these other programs in the iTunes software, but there’s also more that Apple could be doing with personalization. This isn’t like the iTunes music store which was hampered in its “Just For You” recommendation by relying only on paid downloads. Also, several of these new stores provided by RIM, Nokia and Microsoft could hit the ground running with an existing library of hundreds or thousands of applications and the fewer restrictions placed upon applications for many of these other operating systems should open the doors to a wider array of application types.

iPhone enterprise approach is grim for RIM

image Some may gawk that Apple chose to work with Microsoft on a corporate e-mail solution for the iPhone but, really, after Palm did (before it offered Windows Mobile handsets) Nokia licensed ActiveSync (in the days before it was Silverlight-friendly), there wasn’t much doubt that Apple would be amenable to doing so.

Despite now having the Exchange imprimatur, the iPhone probably won’t overtake Blackberry overnight, but its acceptance of Exchange indicates another setback for Blackberry Connect.  Still, even though many enterprises don’t have an up-to-date enough Exchange server to support ActiveSync, more of them will get there at some point. RIM certainly hasn’t helped its cause with recent (albeit brief) outage.

Despite it being positioned as the ideal enterprise mobile device, study after study has shown mobile e-mail as the killer application for these devices and you can effectively do that on a device that is a lot cheaper than an iPhone. Of course, if that’s what businesspeople are buying with their own money anyway, that could become a moot point. In fact, to some extent Apple is betting on that.

I’ve asked Apple representatives if Apple would allow a third-party Blackberry Connect application to be offered in the App Store or whether they might consider that a security risk. I should hear more on that later..

Update: RIM shows they’re down with cool consumer media, too!