Research In Motion (RIM) was on a roll when BlackBerry (BB) held its sway in consumer and enterprise segments. People coined the term “crackberry” for its strong adherents. However, consumer market was shaken up with Apple’s iPhone. Backed by brilliant marketing, engineered shortages and stunted product (so that subsequent models could be sold as improvements), it captured the imagination of masses. It was revolutionary in concept because it featured touch interface with its own app store that supplemented its core feature set. The fawning media set the bar higher for other claimants in the space.
RIM suffered loss of market share to Android, primarily in North America, where its epitaph was nearly set in stone. Interestingly, they grew in terms of subscriber numbers rest of world. RIM, at one time, considered switching to Android, but developed its own operating system from ground up as a differentiator. With its war chest, RIM acquired, UNIX like operating system (OS), QNX which has proved its worth as an embeddable, resilient and highly scalable kernel. It is currently deployed in mission critical systems like medical devices, high speed trains, semiconductor manufacturing, nuclear power plants and automobiles where fail safe components are essential.
Why RIM matters now? BlackBerry smartphone is likely to be proverbial dark horse in RIM’s ecosystem. Once you realise the beauty of underlying OS, you can appreciate RIM’s recent spate of acquisitions in human computer user interface (Astonishing Tribe), calendar/memo applications (Tungle.me) and video/picture editing (JayCut). With QNX as core, for example, medical systems, which need to be fault resistant,
secure and comply with strictest standards of patient privacy, can easily be integrated with existing BlackBerry platform playing on its inherent strength of encryption standards.
Although PlayBook was a limited commercial success (covered in these columns earlier), it was a harbinger of future; a product that features an extensive set of user interface enhancements, tight integration with mail, calendar and memo applications and NSA endorsed elliptic cryptography unmatched by any competing product in its category. Not surprisingly, BB10 is the only smartphone in existence that has achieved Federal Information Processing Standard (Level 2) certification, a joint standard developed to provide a common certification for the security of encryption modules, even before it has been launched.
This reviewer has seen videos of upcoming BlackBerry 10 developmental phones and can testify the palpable excitement compared to existing platforms. For example, the browser is fully HTML 5 compliant and smokes out its competition in various parameters. RIM has also conducted extensive jam sessions across the world with a high level of developer interest and participation, and it is expected that atleast 90% of top selling apps on Android and iOS platforms is going to be present at BB 10 launch.
In terms of hardware, we have hit the law of diminishing marginal utility. It is impossible to discern differences between multi-core processors or screen resolution, unless you wish to have crowing rights. This reviewer strongly feels that its underlying OS that makes BlackBerry stand apart from other commodity phones. For example, BB 10 has Hub to have all messages in unified inbox; an excellent and refined implementation of “lifestream”; described by The Register as “brutally utilitarian”. You can “peek in” to incoming notifications without loosing focus on current task.
QNX is able to multitask to open multiple applications with an overlay and not “in-and-out experience” as for others. BB 10 allows “home” applications to be set apart from “work” space with a clear divide between them. A time shift camera taking multiple pictures allows you to choose the perfect shot. Touch screen keyboard, bane of other platforms, has “heat sensing algorithms” to accurately place individual keystrokes and phenomenal adaptability for predictive input surpassing it’s iconic physical sibling. The desktop application has also been revamped to interface and back up BB 10.
RIM is likely to rise like a phoenix from the ashes. The current platform is a testimony to incredible thought process; a boon for hyper connected successful individuals. BB 10 promises to be a refined alternative to Apple and Android. This reviewer is excited with possibility of granular productivity enhancements in developed feature set, a promise of excellent hardware exceeding current phones; a testimony to the wizards from Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.
The writer is a practicing doctor with keen interest in technology