For enterprise users, how will Research In Motion's new BlackBerry 6 operating system match up against Microsoft's upcoming Windows Phone 7?
That question could become particularly important, given that many firms are beginning to engage in a long-awaited tech refresh after months or years of pinched IT budgets. While Windows Phone 7 is targeted more at a consumer demographic, many businesses will likely evaluate Microsoft's attempt at a complete smartphone operating-system revamp, if only because a portion of those same businesses have traditionally used Windows Mobile devices for corporate communications.
Meanwhile, BlackBerry has been attempting to hold its traditional stronghold in the enterprise against a rising batch of competitors, notably Google Android, while carving inroads in the consumer market.
That would put the operating systems on a collision course, to use a hoary clich??Â«, if their respective companies hadn't already been competing fiercely in the mobile space against not only each other, but also Apple and Google.
RIM President and co-CEO Mike Lazaridis first unveiled the BlackBerry 6 operating system on April 27, along with a WebKit-powered Web browser, during an address at the company's Wireless Enterprise Symposium in Orlando, Fla.
Lazaridis described the next version of the smartphone operating system as the "biggest step forward for the BlackBerry experience in our history." Revamped features include multitouch functionality, bookmarks, easy-to-access search, and pan-and-zoom scrolling from screen to screen. A supposedly faster Web browsing experience comes courtesy of a new rendering engine.
Some analysts see the new BlackBerry operating system as a chance for RIM to achieve a better competitive position vis-??Ã-vis Google Android and the Apple iPhone.
"We think the UI [user interface] will improve access to the BlackBerry apps store," Mark McKechnie, an analyst with Broadpoint AmTech, wrote in an April 27 research note. "The new OS will come with a browser that includes multitouch, kinetic scrolling and pinch to zoom. Further checks suggest the OS and browser will be ported to recently shipping models, including the Bold 2, pending technical hurdles."
RIM also used the Orlando conference to unveil two new handsets, the BlackBerry Bold 9650 and BlackBerry Pearl 3G. The Bold 9650 is the first device in that line to support CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) networks, allowing it to operate on EvDO Rev A networks in North America and 3G UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System)/HSPA and quad-band EDGE (Enhanced Data for Global Evolution)/GPRS/GSM networks abroad.
According to analysis firm comScore, RIM leads the U.S. smartphone market with a 42 percent share, while the Apple iPhone holds second with a 25 percent share. Windows Mobile and Google Android trail in third and fourth place with 15 percent and 9 percent, respectively.