NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

Research in Motion set to officially unveil its new BlackBerry 10 platform tomorrow

In less than eigh­teen hours, exec­u­tives at Cana­di­an telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions pio­neer Research in Motion will simul­ta­ne­ous­ly take the stage at a set of media events in major cities around the world to offi­cial­ly unveil Black­Ber­ry 10, the com­pa­ny’s much antic­i­pat­ed next-gen­er­a­tion mobile oper­at­ing sys­tem, which RIM hopes will put its line of smart­phones back in the van­guard of mobile com­put­ing.

Tomor­row’s prod­uct launch, which will be anchored by RIM CEO Thorsten Heins in New York, is the biggest in the his­to­ry of the com­pa­ny.

The tech press have been invit­ed to attend spe­cial events where Black­Ber­ry 10 will be show­cased in more than a half-dozen cities around the globe: New York and Toron­to in North Amer­i­ca, Lon­don and Paris in Europe, Jakar­ta in Ocea­nia, Johan­nes­burg in Africa, and Dubai and New Del­hi in Asia.

Black­Ber­ry users and enthu­si­asts all over the globe (includ­ing us) have been anx­ious­ly await­ing tomor­row’s prod­uct launch, for it rep­re­sents the future of the plat­form that we rely on to get things done.

At these events, RIM is expect­ed to offi­cial­ly unveil its first two Black­Ber­ry 10 hand­sets, which will report­ed­ly be called the Z10 and the X10.

The Z10 will be a touch­screen-only phone with an advanced vir­tu­al key­board that more close­ly mim­ics the phys­i­cal key­boards that Black­Ber­ry is known for, while the X10 will sport a QWERTY key­board sim­i­lar to the one found on the Black­Ber­ry Bold 99009930 series for those­who pre­fer a phone with an actu­al key­board.

RIM has promised that both hand­sets will run Black­Ber­ry 10 equal­ly well.

The com­pa­ny has spent months devel­op­ing and per­fect­ing Black­Ber­ry 10. Mul­ti­ple delays have sore­ly test­ed the patience of loy­al cus­tomers, who have con­tin­ued to stand by RIM as oth­ers have aban­doned Black­Ber­ry for Android and iOS. But the wait­ing for #Team­Black­Ber­ry is about to come to an end. At tomor­row’s launch, RIM is expect­ed to unveil pric­ing and avail­abil­i­ty infor­ma­tion for the Z10 and the X10, which RIM says an unprece­dent­ed num­ber of wire­less car­ri­ers are com­mit­ted to launch­ing. There have even been rumors that some car­ri­ers may be ship­ping hand­sets as ear­ly as this week to those who have pre­ordered.

While RIM has not yet intro­duced Black­Ber­ry 10 to the gen­er­al pub­lic — that’s what tomor­row’s launch event and the 2013 Super Bowl ad the com­pa­ny has pur­chased are for — it has already earned high praise from devel­op­ers and enthu­si­asts who have been giv­en pro­to­type devices to play with.

It’s said to be fast, flu­id, and very sta­ble.

Because the Black­Ber­ry 10 plat­form does not actu­al­ly share any code with the cur­rent Black­Ber­ry OS (which is based on Java), it lacks the flaws and quirks of Black­Ber­ry smart­phones now on the mar­ket. Instead of Java, Black­Ber­ry 10 is built on QNX Neu­tri­no, the same under­ly­ing oper­at­ing sys­tem that pow­ers RIM’s Black­Ber­ry Play­Book tablet, intro­duced in 2011. QNX can already be found inside of vehi­cles, nuclear pow­er plants, and data cen­ters in addi­tion to the Play­Book. Now, it will be at the heart of RIM’s Black­Ber­ry smart­phones, too.

The first release of QNX actu­al­ly came out two years before Mike Lazaridis found­ed Research in Motion. How­ev­er, like RIM, QNX’s her­itage is Cana­di­an; it was cre­at­ed by Uni­ver­si­ty of Water­loo stu­dents Dan Dodge and Gor­don Bell. Dodge con­tin­ues to over­see devel­op­ment of QNX; he is now the lead soft­ware archi­tect for Research in Motion, and has been tasked by RIM CEO Thorsten Heins with exe­cut­ing on the com­pa­ny’s vision for Black­Ber­ry 10.

Unlike near­ly all of the major oper­at­ing sys­tems in use today, QNX has a micro­ker­nel instead of a mono­lith­ic ker­nel. In lay­man’s terms, this means the oper­at­ing sys­tem has a dif­fer­ent archi­tec­ture. It’s very com­pact and portable; the ker­nel sim­ply does­n’t have that many lines of code. It is mod­u­lar to its core, unlike Lin­ux (used in Android), XNU (the ker­nel inside of Mac OS X and iOS) or the NT ker­nel (found in Win­dows), which are mono­lith­ic or most­ly mono­lith­ic.

So what does this mean for users? In a few words, sta­bil­i­ty and true mul­ti-task­ing. As Play­Book own­ers can attest, when a mis­be­hav­ing appli­ca­tion crash­es, it does­n’t brick the tablet. The appli­ca­tion hav­ing a prob­lem may need to be restart­ed, but the device does­n’t have to be, nor do oth­er open appli­ca­tions.

RIM’s deci­sion to buy QNX Soft­ware Sys­tems from Har­man Inter­na­tion­al in 2010 may end up being viewed years from now as the move that saved the com­pa­ny from a dis­as­trous fate. In QNX, RIM has a robust, indus­tri­al-grade oper­at­ing sys­tem with a proven track record and a promis­ing future… an OS capa­ble of mak­ing its Black­Ber­ry smart­phones ultra­mod­ern and cut­ting-edge once again.

RIM exec­u­tives say that Black­Ber­ry 10 is like noth­ing on the mar­ket today. In demon­stra­tions, or demos, the com­pa­ny has pro­vid­ed glimpses of the new user inter­face, which is based on con­cepts they call Hub, Peek, and Flow. The Hub is an always-on, always-acces­si­ble all-in-one mes­sag­ing cen­ter that han­dles emails, tweets, sta­tus updates, BBMs, LinkedIn invi­ta­tions, and text mes­sages. Users can eas­i­ly get to the Hub at any time, no mat­ter what appli­ca­tion they’re in with the swipe of a fin­ger. Mes­sages can be sort­ed by account or by ser­vice with just a few taps of the fin­ger; the Hub is said to be very cus­tomiz­able.

The hub in BlackBerry 10

The Research in Motion team shows the hub, off one of the key fea­tures of Black­Ber­ry 10, which acts as a con­ver­sa­tion man­ag­er. (Cour­tesy of Research in Motion Ltd.)

Flow is described as the abil­i­ty to move between appli­ca­tions with­out need­ing to click on a home but­ton or go to a home screen. A Black­Ber­ry user can choose to run mul­ti­ple appli­ca­tions at once and quick­ly move between as desired. Users can also peek at adja­cent appli­ca­tions with­out leav­ing the appli­ca­tion that they are in.

RIM obvi­ous­ly has­n’t offi­cial­ly released spec­i­fi­ca­tions for its new hand­sets yet; it will do that tomor­row. But the new phones are expect­ed to be 4G capa­ble, with fast proces­sors, plen­ty of mem­o­ry, larg­er screen sizes, and high­er qual­i­ty dis­plays than pre­vi­ous Black­Ber­rys. The hand­sets will launch with a much larg­er appli­ca­tion selec­tion than either iOS or Android had dur­ing their debuts; RIM says that over 70,000 appli­ca­tions will be avail­able to users through the Black­Ber­ry World store­front at launch. (The store­front will serve up music, movies, and tele­vi­sion shows in addi­tion to appli­ca­tions, RIM says).

In recent days, a num­ber of major com­pa­nies, devel­op­ers, and con­tent providers have announced their sup­port for the Black­Ber­ry 10 plat­form, includ­ing:

The list (which is much longer than what you see above) does not yet include Insta­gram, Net­flix, or Skype, but that does­n’t mean it won’t even­tu­al­ly. RIM has a good rela­tion­ship with both Face­book (the own­er of Insta­gram) and Microsoft (the own­er of Skype), so it’s very pos­si­ble those ser­vices will work with Black­Ber­ry 10. Net­flix has pub­licly shown less inter­est in the Black­Ber­ry plat­form, but RIM may well be work­ing behind the scenes with them. We’ll have to wait and see.

Reuters checked with each of the Unit­ed States’ Big Four car­ri­ers (Verzion, AT&T, Sprint, T‑Mobile) and all of them have con­firmed they will be sell­ing Black­Ber­ry 10 hand­sets in the near future. Every major Cana­di­an car­ri­er is on board as well.

The Nation­al Insti­tute of Stan­dards and Tech­nol­o­gy (NIST) has already award­ed Research in Motion FIPS 140–2 cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, which means that Black­Ber­ry 10 is already primed for devel­op­ment by gov­ern­ment agen­cies and in cor­po­rate envi­ron­ments. That’s a good thing, because RIM needs to be able to start ship­ping the new phones out to cus­tomers as soon as pos­si­ble.

Black­Ber­ry 10 hand­sets will also come with a fea­ture RIM calls Black­Ber­ry Bal­ance. Bal­ance allows for mul­ti­ple pro­files to be stored on a hand­set — a per­son­al pro­file and a work pro­file. Cor­po­rate IT depart­ments can wield full con­trol over the work pro­file on a Black­Ber­ry 10 hand­set, while the entire­ly sep­a­rate per­son­al pro­file remains under the con­trol of the indi­vid­ual user.

Bal­ance is RIM’s response to the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) trend. With Bal­ance, users who want a ful­ly-func­tion­al Black­Ber­ry won’t need to car­ry a sec­ond phone. Instead, they’ll be able to make use of mul­ti­ple pro­files on just one device.

Black­Ber­ry Mes­sen­ger has also been revamped for Black­Ber­ry 10. RIM has­n’t said much about the improve­ments to BBM, but Black­Ber­ry enthu­si­asts are hop­ing that video call­ing will be sup­port­ed. (BBM got voice chat sup­port last month).

We should know more tomor­row.

If you are inter­est­ed in par­tic­i­pat­ing in the launch event, you can watch the whole thing live from the com­fort of home — RIM will be offer­ing a livestream begin­ning at 7 AM Pacif­ic Time. We’ll be watch­ing and cheer­ing for RIM.

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