News & Views
BlackBerry limps back into smartphone race

It’s been a while since anybody heard a peep out of Research In Motion (RIM), the developer behind the once coveted BlackBerry brand. But rumours of its death have been greatly exaggerated; the company, which booked an unexpected profit last quarter and recently extended its multi-year patenting deal with InterDigitalInc., is now looking with optimism to the future. Might the hordes of Apple and Android acolytes out there be convinced to give BlackBerry another chance?

That all hinges on the success of the new BlackBerry 10 platform, and the two new handsets which will drop at the end of January. Both of these handsets will run off a touchscreen-first operating system. The first handset is the Z10, a full touchscreen model, while the second, the X10, will retain the signature BlackBerry physical keypad.

In fact, RIM appear to be making the most of their trademark features. In addition to the traditional keyboard on the X10, the BlackBerry 10 platform will also feature a snazzy new version of BBM (that’s BlackBerry Messenger, to the uninitiated). Considerable excitement is being generated over the video chat capability in this latest incarnation of the app.

BBM may also be where RIM decides to alter its revenue model. In an earnings call last month, RIM CEO Thorston Heins said; “We have a very, very strong installed BBM base out there. BBM is a fantastic social network that is really distinct from other messaging applications because of its immediacy, because of its richness of services, and we’re going to evolve that…So the point is that what we’re working on is how do we evolve BBM [services] to a stage where we can actually also create additional service revenues out of BBM.”

He also expressed his excitement at the fruit that the last few months have borne over at RIM: ““With BlackBerry 10, they [BlackBerry’s carrier users] see the potential to enrich the user experience using the navigation of BlackBerry Flow, integration of the BlackBerry Hub, the speed and convenience of our Peek gesture, and the uniqueness of the touch BlackBerry keyboard and the elegance and security of BlackBerry Balance for enterprise users… We have many other features and more surprises that will be unveiled at launch.”

These recent advancements, while far from world-changing, mark incredibly encouraging progress for the BlackBerry brand. By acknowledging the widespread popularity of touchscreen and incorporating it into their long-standing keyboard model, RIM have demonstrated a willingness to move with the times, and well and truly re-join the smartphone market after a long absence.

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