BlackBerry CEO, Thorsten Heins – the company also announced it was changing its name from RIM – said the manufacturer had been on a "journey of transformation’" and that this had been "the most challenging year of my career".
Together with Vivek Bhardwaj, head of software portfolio, Heins demonstrated the stand-out features of the OS, including: the Flow user interface, enabling users to see the "past and the future at one swipe of your thumb"; an improved BlackBerry Keyboard with neat word prediction and multiple language features; enhancements to BBM, including the ability to place a video call from within BBM; plus Remember (an o-device filing system); and Balance, designed to separate work and personal apps, which Heins said would offer "the best security and privacy in a single UX" to busy business users.
Heins said that working mums were the largest growing sector in the workplace, and therefore announced a new position – appointing Alicia Keys (yes, that Alicia Keys) to the role of global creative director. Presumably she'll be gigging less in the near future...
HDMI, NFC, 4G
The first two handsets, available in white and black, are the touchscreen Z10 and the Q10, with a physical keyboard. The Z10 has a 4.2” screen, with a 356ppi display. They both have 1.5 Ghz dual core processors with 2GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage and an expandable memory card slot. Both feature a micro HDMI port for presentations, NFC, and support for 4G. 70,000 apps are already available on the OS, including Evernote, Skype and Angry Birds, spanning government, healthcare and entertainment.
In the UK, the BlackBerry Z10 will be available from tomorrow on pay monthly contracts and pre-pay plans from all operators. Vodafone has just announced you can get your hands on one for just £29 on a £42 per month deal with unlimited calls, texts and 2 GB of data. In Canada, the Z10 will be available from 5 February. It will sell for $149.99 on a three year contract. It will launch in the UAE on 10 February and in the US in March.
David Murphy writes:
On the evidence of today’s launch, BlackBerry’s new OS, BB10, looks to have some very cool features. BlackBerry Flow, offering the ability to switch seamlessly between different apps, looks pretty good. The predictive touch keyboard, with its ability to flick words on to the screen, and to switch between languages instantly, is also very cool; it might even trump SwiftKey, my favourite typing app.
The enhancements to BBM are also very neat indeed: video calling, plus the ability to share your screen with the person you are calling, both from within BBM. BlackBerry Remember, the on-device filing system for URLs, emails, voice notes and more, is also neat. As is Balance, BlackBerry’s attempt to enable users to keep their work and personal lives/apps separate from each other on the phone, while still enabling them to switch quickly and easily between the two categories.
Whether it’s enough to halt RIM’s decline, however, is a moot point. Early reaction from the stock market is not good. The stock had risen as high as $16.62 earlier today in the run up to the event, but a few minutes ago, it was trading at $14.45, a fall of 13 per cent.
The problem for BlackBerry, however good the new platform looks, is that the exodus from RIM began long before the company changed its name and launched its new platform today, and those people who have switched to iPhone or Android may see no good reason to go back.
Of course, BlackBerry remains strong in the youth market, largely due to BBM and teenagers’ seemingly insatiable desire to follow each and every moment of their friends’ lives via their phones. As these users trade up from their first BlackBerry to their next smartphone, will BB10 have enough to keep them loyal, and will they be able to afford it? BlackBerry must be hoping so. They say children are the future. In BlackBerry’s case, the adage has never been more apt.