Research In Motion will enable BlackBerry devices to use Google Android applications, according to a Bloomberg news report generating some buzz in tech circles.
The Aug. 24 Bloomberg piece cites unnamed sources "familiar with the plan" as its source. According to them, RIM's upcoming QNX-based "superphones" will support Android applications. The company's PlayBook tablet, which also uses a QNX operating system, is likewise expected to become Android-compatible at some future point, possibly (according to a source speaking to tech-blog Engadget) by fall.
Until those QNX smartphones arrive on the market, RIM plans on defending its market-share turf with a line of new BlackBerry devices running BlackBerry 7 OS, which the company claims offers faster browsing, smoother navigation, voice-activated universal search, and preinstalled applications, such as the enhanced BlackBerry Messenger 6.
Smartphones loaded with the new operating system include three new BlackBerry Curve devices (the 9350, 9360 and 9370), along with an ultra-thin update of the Bold (featuring RIM's classic keyboard-and-screen smartphone design). There's also the Blackberry Torch 9810, with the standard Torch line's slide-out keyboard and touch display. The Torch 9850/9860, on the other hand, features a 3.7-inch touch-screen without the physical QWERTY keyboard.
RIM is also continuing to promote its PlayBook tablet, which shipped around 500,000 units in its first quarter of release and faces stiff competition from Apple's iPad. Earlier in August, Sprint canceled plans to launch a 4G version of the PlayBook, although RIM passed that off as a strategic decision. "RIM has decided to prioritize and focus its 4G development resources on LTE [Long-Term Evolution]," it wrote in a statement. "We remain excited and committed to delivering innovative and powerful 4G tablets to the U.S. market together with our carrier partners."
The question is whether including Android applications would help RIM counteract the competitive pressures being brought to bear by Google, Apple and other competitors in the space. RIM reported June 16 it had earned $4.9 billion in revenue for the first quarter of fiscal 2012, down 12 percent from the previous quarter. Net income also declined, while RIM curbed earnings per share for fiscal 2012 to between $5.25 and $6.
Certainly the analysts seem down on RIM's chances overall. "We believe RIM has now squandered nearly every opportunity and competitive advantage it enjoyed through ineffective R&D resource management, delayed product launches and misreads of the competitive environment," Morgan Stanley analyst Ehud Gelbum wrote in a note to clients, according to a June 16 Reuters report.