Since Research In Motion delayed the launch of BlackBerry 10, January has become a finish line of sorts: RIM needs to reach its new launch date for its long-promised transformation to begin.
Defending the delay, CEO Thorsten Heins has insisted that RIM is not updating its operating system but building an entirely new platform.
"Nothing from BlackBerry 7 is in BlackBerry 10, nothing," Heins told eWEEK during an interview Aug. 14. (He added, however, that the DNA is still there so the experience will still feel intuitive to longtime BlackBerry users.)
What is just past the finish line? Most experts expect RIM to introduce at least one full-touch smartphone and at least one with a QWERTY keypad. BlackBerry Balance will enable corporate and private information to sit side-by-side on the devices, with IT having full control of the former but no view at all of the latter. What else can we expect?
Information Week has described RIM as planning to "sprinkle Android Mojo" into BlackBerry 10 by funneling social networking feeds and other data into a single spot. But RIM is working on more than the equivalent of a Windows Phone People Hub. The BB10 design seems less about squashing together all the information relevant to a user than offering a way to more efficiently access and interact with growing fields of information.
Heins, choosing his words carefully so as not to reveal too much, explained:
"There's a lot of consumer and corporate research on how do people use their devices. ... That led to a whole new user design for the flow of the applications. So right now if you look at [competitors'] devices, you have the tiled screen or you have the icons. What do you do [if you need information], you call an app. Work within that app, want to do something different? Back, new app. Need to do something else? Back, new app. What BlackBerry 10 will do for you is stop this paradigm of 'in-out,' as we call it, and through multi-tasking, real-time capabilities will allow you to flow across those applications.... You can have corporate-liable versus personal information on the device, and you can even flow across those domains easily. One swipe and you're there."
RIM is focusing not on corporate or consumer customers, but on The BlackBerry People, as they're called at RIM headquarters-device users who are busy, passionate and want to be successful, whether in running a business, a family or a soccer team. How this translates to BlackBerry 10, said Heins, is that RIM designed it for people "who need to stay ahead of the game."
"You have to make decisions, you have to direct information, you have to give out information, and you have to do this on various channels-corporate email, private email, Twitter, Facebook, whatever. You have tons of channels coming at you, and how do you get all this instruction, how do you deal with it? That paradigm-you get sick and tired of always having to call up a new application. Something's on LinkedIn, go to LinkedIn. Something's on Twitter, go to Twitter. You will see that on BB10, it's so easy. It's so well-integrated. ...What else? Fans of non-QWERTY devices can expect a better experience on BlackBerry 10."
"We've spent a lot of innovation on the full-touch virtual keypad," said Heins. "That was huge. We want the typing experience on the [touch-based BlackBerry] to get at least as close as it can to a physical QWERTY."
Finally, we can also expect RIM to turn to more partners for their expertise.
"You cannot be everybody's darling, you can't," said Heins, who has trimmed divisions that aren't central to RIM's core. He wants to focus on offering the best typing experience, the best communication experience. This was the shift discussed during RIM's last earnings call that was largely misunderstood. Heins insists that BlackBerry 10 will have a strong consumer experience.
"I'm not going to develop games anymore, I'm not going to develop maps-there's a company out there that really can do it better than I can. So I need to partner, I need to get them on board, I need to get them a great programming interface, and off we go," he said.
As for the finish line, "We're almost there," said Heins. "We're almost there."