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 9900⁄9930 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.
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:
- ESPN (a unit of Walt Disney)
- The PGA Tour
- Major League Baseball
- Rovio (the studio behind Angry Birds)
- 10Tons (the studio behind King Oddball)
- TuneIn Radio
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.