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RIM pins hopes on BlackBerry 7 offerings

Troubled Canadian BlackBerry vendor RIM is betting on the souped up BlackBerry 7 operating system to turn its fortunes around. On Wednesday the company unveiled three new models – updates to its Bold and Torch lines – all running the new flagship OS.

Speaking at an event in London, referred to as RIM’s biggest ever global launch, Rob Orr, VP of product management for EMEA, showcased the BlackBerry Bold 9900 and 9930 – super thin GSM and CDMA devices; the Torch 9810 with a slide-out keyboard; and the Torch 9850 and 9860 GSM and CDMA devices featuring an all touch display.

The new Bold model features NFC technology, while the Torch 9810 makes more use of screen real estate by packing a sliding keyboard. The Torch 9850 jumps on the touchscreen bandwagon with a virtual only keyboard, which for a company so well known for its hardware QWERTY seems a bit on the desperate side.

The feature in the spotlight for all these handsets however, was the operating system. BlackBerry 7 promises smooth touchy-swipey interaction via its Liquid Graphics technology and the 1.2GHz processor all the new devices run on. The WebKit-based browser is HTML5 capable and 40 per cent faster than its predecessor, while the OS also includes updates to the popular BBM app and social media integration via the Social Feeds feature.

Each smartphone also features a range of hardware enhancements including a 1.2GHz processor, HD video recording, 24-bit high resolution graphics, and advanced sensors enabling augmented reality applications such as Wikitude.

The question now is whether the new offerings can steer RIM back on track. Last week the company announced that it is to lay off 2,000 staff as part of the cost-cutting programme unveiled in June as part of “a prudent and necessary step for the long-term success of the company.”

RIM’s Q211 results (the company’s fiscal Q1) saw net income down to $695m from $934m for the same quarter in 2010.

Informa Analyst Malik Saadi also raised concerns over app development for the Blackberry handsets based on the new operating system. “While RIM has made lots of improvements to its new OS, there may be some pitfalls with backwards compatibility. Our concern here is the fact that BB6 apps are not automatically compatible with BB7 which means that developers will have to create one version for BB6 and another for BB7 in order to target a wider audience,” Saadi said. “Also, as there is no upgrade path from BB6 to BB7, users who want BB7 will need to get one of the new smartphones which may discourage developers from supporting BB7 until these device sales grow.”

All the next generation of BlackBerry smartphones will be available from carriers around the world later this month.

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4 comments

  1. Avatar T Lee Horne III 03/08/2011 @ 12:13 pm

    I used BB by RIM exclusively for years and years. BB/RIM fell into the same trap that caught PALM. Resting on past success, failure to keep developing to compete in a changing market. Unless something severe happens to derail the Android operating system on all the smart phones, I believe BB/RIM are to follow PALM into oblivion.

  2. Avatar MJeserick 03/08/2011 @ 12:26 pm

    I have been an exclusive Blackberry user for several years and the very reason I’ve stayed with BB is the fully, full-on, for real QWERTY keybaord! I’ve tried several touchscreen keyboards in stores, and after 5 minutes with one, I want to throw it through a wall. Sorry — a totally virtual keyboard will cost you at least one customer.

  3. Avatar mama_cass 03/08/2011 @ 3:37 pm

    Not sure that having a virtual keyboard is “desperation” – just offering consumers a choice. As long as RIM can stay ahead on email and can catch up with speeds on browsing it may be enough to be viable, though manifestly not at the dominance of the past.

    BTW, I actually quite like the HP Touchpad, so not everything at Palm went to waste…

  4. Avatar Per Dingle 03/08/2011 @ 3:48 pm

    “The Torch 9850 jumps on the touchscreen bandwagon with a virtual only keyboard,which for a company so well known for its hardware QWERTY seems a bit on the desperate side.” Desperate? Seriously? They have had devices available with a virtual keyboard since the Storm, @3 years ago. The Torch allowed you to use either physical or virtual. Releasing another virtual only keyboard model only makes sense as users are getting more accustomed to it. I’d hardly call that a desperate move.

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