BlackBerry 10 Smartphones Must Hit Home Run for RIM Team

NEWS ANALYSIS: Research In Motion CEO Thorsten Heins shows hundreds of BlackBerry fans the prototype of a radically new smartphone design based on the BlackBerry 10 mobile operating system that is also under development. But RIM's success will depend on the effectiveness of production models, not prototypes.

ORLANDO, Fla.€”Imagine if you will a BlackBerry with no physical keyboard, but with an improved keyboard none the less. Or imagine a BlackBerry that has a suspicious resemblance to Windows Phone 7 software, but doesn€™t run Windows. Then consider a BlackBerry that multitasks and, while it€™s at it, remembers your typing style and word usage. Sounds a little frightening, doesn€™t it?

But that active tiled interface, the ability to have multiple apps open at the same time and a keyboard that knows what you might type next are all part of the new BlackBerry 10 OS demonstrated by Thorsten Heins, CEO of Research In Motion, at the BlackBerry World conference here.

While the actual device being demonstrated by Thorsten is a prototype development platform that in its present form will never see the light of day as an actual product, it did provide a look inside what RIM thinks will make its BlackBerry smartphone the hot-seller it needs it to be to save the company.

Right now, BlackBerry sales have declined to the point where the once-dominant smartphone maker has sunk to a weak third in the marketplace. While the decline has been placed at the feet of the company€™s former CEOs and its corporate culture that Thorsten has already vowed to change, RIM still has a long way to go to even come close to its former glory.

As he began theBlackBerry 10 demonstration in a staged event vaguely reminiscent of Steve Jobs and the iPhone, Thorsten clearly had high hopes for the device. He talked about how it was critical for RIM to hold on to the core users who have always depended on BlackBerry smartphones and on the need to create a device that does what other smartphones can€™t do. The first glimpse of the new BlackBerry showed that, indeed, RIM was taking a different approach to design. This was no iPhone clone.

On the other hand, it clearly has to remind the user of Windows Phone 7, with its active tiled interface, the way you scroll to see new tiles, the appearance of the unified inbox and the flow of the operation. However, RIM has made changes of its own, especially in terms of the typing interface that€™s so important to BlackBerry users.

While BlackBerry 10 is designed to use a touch-screen keyboard, the designers have made the keys significantly larger. What€™s more, the typing interface is designed to learn the user€™s typing style and word usage.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...