Brighthand Bytes

Aug 4 2010   10:11AM GMT

BlackBerry OS 6: RIM’s Hail-Mary Pass

Ed Hardy Ed Hardy Profile: Ed Hardy

The wraps came off BlackBerry OS 6.0 yesterday, and RIM’s most important operating system upgrade ever will soon be in customers’ hands.

This new version is so critical because the BlackBerry OS is starting to fall behind its rivals, and might be starting down a slope toward becoming a niche product. This new version must reverse this trend before it becomes unstoppable.

I realize that it might seem presumptuous to say RIM is about to go into decline, as the company is the top seller of smartphones in the U.S. But I’m convinced it’s true.

I spend a large percentage of my time talking to smartphone users and reading about these devices on the Web, both in news articles and in a range of forums, not just Brighthand’s own. What I see is a great deal of interest being paid to Apple’s iPhone and devices running Google’s Android OS. These are certainly where all the excitement is. The thrill seems to be lacking in BlackBerry users.

So think about it: if you’re a user who is bored with your BlackBerry, but you know someone who is thrilled by their Droid, you’re going to be mighty tempted to get a Droid the next time you want a new phone.

BlackBerry OS 6.0I realize this is a very subjective assessment, but sometimes that’s what’s required to judge what people are thinking.

Bringing Back the Excitement
RIM’s smartphones work with a minimum of hassle, but they lack the features consumers have come to expect.  BlackBerry OS 6.0 is going to go a long way toward changing this.

One of the most important enhancements is a new web browser. The previous one was terrible — something RIM should have been ashamed to put on devices in 2007, much less 2010. But the latest version is an app people will actually want to use.

Although much of the BlackBerry’s reputation is founded on email, it has lagged behind in offering support for messages formatted with HTML — which these days is a large percentage of them. The new version removes this limitation.

RIM is also embracing touchscreens with BlackBerry OS 6.0. The company dipped its toe in the water with the Storm series, but the latest version of its operating system is designed to bring touchscreens to a wider range of devices. Case in point: the Blackberry Torch 9800, the first model from this company to offer  a touchscreen and a sliding keyboard.

And these are just a few of the changes — the new version of the BlackBerry OS brings many, many more. It’s one of the most significant re-vamps of an operating system I’ve ever seen.

Too Little, Too Late?
RIM has taken a big step forward, but only time will tell if it’s going to be enough. BlackBerry-based smartphones are up against some tough competitors, like the Apple iPhone 4, the Motorola Droid X, and Samsung Captivate.

This company is on top right now, but there’s plenty of evidence to show that this isn’t going to last much longer. Still, I’m a lot more confident about RIM’s prospects now that I’ve seen BlackBerry OS 6.0 than I was before.

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