Research In Motion’s BlackBerry 6 operating system software will be available soon. The software is arguably the best update RIM has made to its smartphone OS in a long time. It includes a better home screen, more efficient menus and a healthy selection of features that do a fine job of matching just about any other solution on the market.
That said, the new software with its eventual release with new BlackBerry models has been ignored by the majority of consumers as Apple’s iPhone continues to capture headlines and the allure of customers.
But that doesn’t mean that BlackBerry 6 should be ignored by Apple, or that it isn’t capable of achieving success in the mobile marketplace. Based on the success RIM’s BlackBerry has enjoyed to this point, and how well the software seems positioned in the marketplace, Apple might want to start worrying about BlackBerry 6 and the immense potential it brings to the market. Here’s why:
1. RIM is finally ready to play
For a while, RIM didn’t seem all that prepared to take on Apple and Google in the mobile market. The company’s BlackBerry devices looked obsolete, and its software worked poorly when compared to iOS. But with BlackBerry 6, all that has changed. The software includes several new features, including social and multimedia integration, that make it a far more viable alternative to anything Apple offers. And given the size of its installed base, that could be a major issue for Apple as it attempts to steal BlackBerry owners away from RIM.
2. It’s what the enterprise has waited for
The enterprise has been the main benefactor of RIM’s BlackBerry for years. Companies that have wanted more functionality and productivity have opted for BlackBerry devices over anything else. But in recent years, those companies realized that BlackBerry OS is becoming obsolete. And they have started looking elsewhere for their mobile needs. With BlackBerry 6, RIM can finally bring those customers back. The software includes the same level of functionality for enterprise users, but adds some streamlined menus and other features to make it more usable. That alone should make enterprise users happy.
3. Familiar–to a point
The best aspect of BlackBerry OS throughout the years is that it has remained familiar. Similar to Windows, which has kept its basic functionality throughout the years, RIM’s BlackBerry OS resembles the same look and feel that customers have been working with all these years. BlackBerry 6 will follow that pattern with the same gridlike arrangement and a familiar menu design. But it will also move forward with fresh ideas, thanks to some new graphics built into the software that most users won’t be familiar with at first. There won’t be drastic differences, but they will be noticeable. And for the most part, they will only help users get more out of the software.
4. Ease of use is now where it should be
A major issue with BlackBerry OS prior to the announcement of the new version of the software was the general lack of usability when compared with the competition. On iOS, for example, users need only tap around the screen to open the applications and services they want. In BlackBerry OS, it requires moving around the screen with the help of a trackpad, clicking on items and sifting through menus to find the right functions. Luckily, RIM has streamlined that to make the operating system more usable than ever. That should make BlackBerry 6 a far more capable competitor to anything Apple offers for the foreseeable future.
BlackBerry 6 OS Will Finally Have Competitive Features
5. Developers will finally have something to like
Currently, Apple’s App Store has more than 240,000 applications available to users looking for everything from social networking to productivity. The BlackBerry App World, on the other hand, has just a fraction of that. And so far, most of those apps are abysmal. With BlackBerry 6, RIM might have finally delivered an operating system that developers, and thus users, will like. Not only is it better designed, but it makes it much easier for developers to create applications for it. Plus, if it’s as successful as RIM hopes, it won’t be long before developers start flocking to the software to capitalize on its growth.
6. Browsing is finally worthwhile
Browsing on BlackBerry 5 is arguably the worst experience of any smartphone on the market. Scrolling around a page is a nightmare, and simply trying to find content is practically impossible. According to RIM, it has addressed that problem with a new, far more functional browser. Of course, it wasn’t all RIM’s doing. The company acquired Torch Mobile last year for the sole purpose of using its WebKit service on the new version of BlackBerry OS. Upon doing so, it has drastically improved its competitive ability to take on Apple’s Safari browser and Google’s mobile Chrome browser.
7. Say good-bye to long menus
RIM has added a key feature that could substantially improve its chances of competing with Apple’s iOS: context-based menus. Currently, BlackBerry owners will open a menu in BlackBerry 5 and find several options that they will need to sift through just to find what they’re looking for. In BlackBerry 6, the company has added a feature that examines where the user is in the software, and delivers only the items available in a menu that they might be looking for. Menus will still be very present on BlackBerry 6, but at least they will be easier to use.
8. Going social
Like every other company in the mobile market, RIM has realized the value of providing social-networking features to its users. In BlackBerry 6, users will be able to view their Facebook newsfeed, see what’s happening on Twitter and more. Users can also update their Facebook status and tweet messages to their Twitter followers. Exactly how well that functionality will work is anyone’s guess, but it’s certainly a good idea on RIM’s part to include it.
9. The best of both worlds?
With RIM so heavily invested in both physical keyboards and now, thanks to the Storm2, touch screens, it’s not a stretch to say that the software might work with both technologies. If so, both consumers and enterprise customers should be excited. Those who wish to have the “next-generation” experience will find it with an all-touch-screen BlackBerry, while those who want something a bit more familiar will likely have it with a BlackBerry sporting a physical keyboard. BlackBerry 6 allows RIM to offer more options than ever. That’s something that Apple, at least to this point, has been unable to do.
10. Search will play central role
Search won’t top the list of reasons why customers will buy a BlackBerry 6 device, but rest assured it will certainly put Apple on notice. For once, BlackBerry owners will be able to search for anything on their devices from within the new software. Users can also search the Web. Granted, Apple has been offering in-phone search for quite a while, but that doesn’t matter. It’s yet another example of RIM finding an Apple advantage and eliminating it. The more it does that with BlackBerry 6, the more Apple will need to worry.