Yesterday, at BlackBerry Jam Americas, BlackBerry 10 was finally unveiled. It has been a long wait, and many people were, and still are for that matter, doubtful that RIM can execute a comeback from its current state of decline. However, loyal BlackBerry users have had faith along. Two days ago (Sept 25th) at BlackBerry Jam Americas 2012, CEO Thorsten Heins unveiled many of the features of BlackBerry 10, focusing in particular on the BlackBerry Hub, Flow, and Peak. Many of you may already know what these features are, but for those of you who don’t, here’s a quick run-down.
BlackBerry Hub – The unified communications centre that is known on BlackBerry smartphones currently as the unified inbox, but with a twist. Like the unified inbox, it handles all your messages. Texts, BBM, emails, etc. But unlike the current iteration, it also allows you to see your call log and calendar events. Obviously you can select what you would like to show up in the Hub, so you won’t be flooded with alerts you don’t want. But there’s more, messaging has always been BlackBerry’s forté, so now, no matter where you are, on the app screen, in an app, or looking at your running apps, you can use a single gesture, and get to the Hub from anywher. It is not an app, it is a part of the OS, that you can access from anywhere at anytime. Now if that’s not playing to BlackBerry’s strengths, I don’t know what is.
BlackBerry Flow – This is the expression used to describe… well, the flow of the new operating system. To quote Thorsten Heins “Gone are the days of the in and out paradime and the home button.” You smoothly swipe between your the apps you have opened, and swipe into the hub from anywhere in the device for example. Everything is gesture based, smooth, and intuitive. This is experienced everywhere, whether you be in the Hub, app menu, Active Frames, or in an app, everything just flows.
BlackBerry Peak – From anywhere in your device, use a gesture to peak at your notifications, or in apps, use a different gesture to open an in-app menu. The BlackBerry Hub can also be accessed from peak by extending the gesture that you used to peak.
There were also many other cool features highlighted, including the re-designed BBM app, the redesigned Blackberry Balance, which creates essentially fully encrypted partitions for your work, and personal sections of the device. There is a work and a personal App World, the work one is populated by apps your employer selects, an the personal App World is the standard app world you would expect to see, offering Games, Apps, and new for BlackBerry, Movies, TV Shows, and Music, directly from the App World.
The keyboard was also showcased again, this time including predictive text in up to three languages at the same time. For those of us who are communicating in several languages at the same time, this is a great innovation that removes the barrier of predictive text forcing us to stick with one language at a time. The lock screen was also shown off, sporting a cool fully user controlled fade effect into the running apps grid “active frames”, or the last screen that you were accessing. Security was also a main theme of the presentation, and much was said about the security of BB10 and its suitability for the enterprise, and “BlackBerry People”, the movers and do-ers.
A native Facebook app extremely similar to the one currently on Android and iOS was also showcased, using the BlackBerry Peak concept. Support was also promised for all major social networks at launch, including Linked In, Twitter, and FourSquare, although Google+ was not mentioned.
The only troubling thing that I heard, amidst all the good news, was the promise that “All the big apps will be on BlackBerry 10 at launch.” I am scared that they are being far to vague and liberal with that term. Will ALL the big apps really be on BB10 at launch? Netflix, Skype, DropBox, Draw Something? (to name but a few highly successful Android and iOS apps and games)? Sure, we have Angry Birds, Plants VS Zombies, and many other big name games. But in the apps category, currently the PlayBook is lacking severely. And when apps aren’t there that people are under the impression that RIM promised, they will be upset.
Many app vendors who had given BlackBerry permission to tell us about their apps were mentioned. Including Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, LinkedIn, and most impressively, Amazon Kindle (Books), and Shazam. But none of the apps I mentioned previously were on the list, nor were many other noteworthy apps. So, either RIM has an ace up its sleeve that it is hiding, or it has severely over-promised.
I’m not getting my hopes too high, although to be honest, this article on CrackBerry.com, with a statement from a senior RIM official that RIM is indeed committed to adding new apps from roughly 100 big name developers to the app store for the launch of BB10. And that Skype and Netflix are actually on that list, did make me very glad that RIM is tackling the problem head-on and looks to be making good headway, seeing as developer after developer praise BB10 for its ease of development. Also, Having heard it from a very reliable source, CrackBerry Kevin is so sure that an Instagram App will be on BlackBerry 10, that he has promised to buy a random commenter on that post a car if he is wrong.
Following up on what I just said, BlackBerry is doing absolutely everything that it can to attract developers, and many are coming. The PlayBook App World had ceased to become a barren desert, and all apps that are compatible with the PlayBook will, with very slight modification, run on BlackBerry 10. And many developers are citing their success stories with the PlayBook OS and easy porting to the PlayBook and BB10. It is after all, much easier to be successful in an area with less competition then when several dozen or more similar apps to your own already exist on bigger app stores, such as Apple’s and Google’s offerings. But still, Compared to the iOS App Store, and the Android Google Play store, the BlackBerry App World obviously has a long way to go.
A Dev Alpha software update was also released, updating its OS from a stripped-down version of the PlayBook OS 2.0 to a limited functionality version of BlackBerry 10. This is great for inspiring developers, because it gives them an excellent Idea of what BB10 will look and feel like, and gives them inspiration to build great apps for it.
I hope you appreciated my brief summary of the events at BlackBerry Jam Americas 2012, and I hope that you’re looking forward to BlackBerry 10 as much as I am.
As always, please feel free to comment on this or any articles on my blog, feedback and discussion is appreciated!