RIM announced its new line of BlackBerry devices running BlackBerry 7 OS. Will these allow RIM to hold the line until 2012, when it releases its "superphones"?
Research In Motion has a plan for reversing its sagging
fortunes in the smartphone space. Starting sometime in 2012, the Canadian
company plans on producing a set of "superphones" with advanced hardware and a
QNX-based operating system, more than capable of battling Apple's iPhone and
the growing family of Google Android smartphones on their own terms.
Until that day, though, RIM is left producing BlackBerry
smartphones that run some variant of its BlackBerry OS. On Aug. 3, the company
announced a set of new devices running its new BlackBerry 7 OS: the BlackBerry
Bold 9900/9930, the BlackBerry Torch 9810, and the BlackBerry Torch 9850/9860.
The BlackBerry Bold 9900/9930 offer a 2.8-inch display with
640 x 480 resolution, 5-megapixel camera, integrated GPS and NFC (or near-field communication, which can turn your
smartphone into a sort of electronic wallet) and 8GB of onboard memory
expandable to 40GB. RIM claims these new Bold devices are its thinnest ever,
although their overall design conforms to the standard BlackBerry
The BlackBerry Torch 9810 is RIM's newest variant on its
Torch line, which features a slide-out keyboard and a 3.2-inch touch display.
That's in contrast to the Torch 9850/9860, which rely on a 3.7-inch touch-screen
and lack a physical QWERTY keyboard-something that skews the aesthetics of
RIM's device line towards its competitors, who have widely embraced the
touch-screen-only model pioneered by Apple's iPhone. Whether or not customers
gravitate toward RIM stepping so far outside its traditional comfort zone
remains to be seen.
RIM claims the BlackBerry 7 OS offers faster browsing,
smoother navigation, voice-activated universal search, and preinstalled apps
such as the enhanced BlackBerry Messenger 6. Launched July 28, BBM 6 offers
users the ability to chat within an app or game, as well as view lists of apps
posted on BBM friends' profiles. The company has also been encouraging
developers to build apps for its BlackBerry App World, which trails both Google
and Apple in its number of offerings.
"RIM needs to focus on how to show why their
enterprise-class capabilities are the way to go," Ray Wang, principal analyst
of the Constellation Research Group, wrote in a July 28 email to eWEEK. The key
to future success will be figuring out "how they can take a consumer innovation
and make it enterprise class ... safe, secure, simple, sexy, sustainable,
At the end of May, for instance, research firm comScore
estimated RIM's share of the U.S. smartphone market at 24.7 percent, lagging
behind Apple at 26.6 percent and Android at 38.1 percent. The company has faced
recent criticism about its increasingly antiquated line of BlackBerry devices,
something this newest line-available later in August-is obviously meant to help
Nicholas Kolakowski on Twitter
Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.