Today marks a historical day in the smart phone space.  The legendary RIM, having fallen so far from their once untouchable peak, has come to an end.  RIM is no more.

Long live BlackBerry.

This was perhaps the most surprising twist of the launch event.  CEO Thorsten Heins announced the renaming of RIM to BlackBerry, to be publically traded and branded under that one name.  Will this be sufficient to separate BlackBerry from the public perception of RIM?  Efforts on stage were clearly pushing in this direction.

There were many interesting technological advancements shown during the event.  Graceful “peeking” multitasking, so as not to disrupt the usage of one app while needing to consult another briefly.  This feature contrasts with the iOS behaviour of suspending background applications, which effectively halts them until you return.  BlackBerry neatly keeps the existing app running, even visible, while dealing with the other temporary intruder.

The keyboard demonstration employing thumb flicks to type entire words was impressive and puzzling.  Not only did the presenter manage to produce full words just by dragging across the keyboard, but he was able to switch to other languages without changing input modes.  I’ll need to get my hands on one of these to see how this dark magic is accomplished.

What was made very clear at the launch event was BlackBerry’s interest in creating a harsh, physical separation from RIM and all the associations that go along with it.

It is reminiscent of the Android keyboard’s swiping method of typing, but this seemed to be a step beyond.  Removing words by just swiping across the entire keyboard is very nice, as well as getting access to special characters by just swiping down on the keyboard.  Exciting innovations there.

The camera demo was similarly clever, and I dearly hope some of these ideas make their way into my Canon DSLR.  How often do I wish I could just tap on the screen to tell the camera what to focus on.  The BlackBerry allows you to drag the focal point around the image, which is brilliant.  As well, it effectively records a video of what you’re taking a picture of, so you can backtrack through it to pick the exact moment when that perfect smile presented itself.  A lifesaver for people trying to catch difficult fleeting moments.

BlackBerry devices have always been a business tool, and not something to mix with one’s personal life, which is what iPhones and Androids are ideal for.  A new method of supporting personal and work modes within the device has been added, which lets you switch between work and personal apps on the fly.  This is an interesting addition which is clearly aimed at dealing with the “bring your own device to work” trend.  If the BlackBerry can be your home device as well as your work device, the choice between iPhone or BlackBerry shifts more in BlackBerry’s favour.

Social media was of course a heavy focus and no surprise that it presented itself strongly at the show and in the platform.  More surprising was their hiring of Alicia Keys as their new Global Creative Director, a new role at the company.  She took the stage at the event and got the first real laughs from the audience as she detailed her on and off romance with RIM products.  BlackBerry certainly wants to remake their identity with moves like this, to get away from their stuffy business past.

BlackBerry 10 is an entirely new way of thinking on an entirely new platform

Availability has the new devices launching in mid- to end of February for different parts of the world, and an immediate launch in the UK.  Tellingly, BB Z10 devices were given out to all attendees at the launch event.

What was made very clear at the launch event was BlackBerry’s interest in creating a harsh, physical separation from RIM and all the associations that go along with it.  Heins spoke of unifying and setting the culture of BlackBerry.  The last speaker emphasized, “BlackBerry 10 is an entirely new way of thinking on an entirely new platform.”

BlackBerry 10 isn’t a new version of the BlackBerry OS, it’s a new OS, period.  The question is, will it be a new platform like Android was, or a new platform like WebOS?  With backing from some big players and over 70,000 apps in their marketplace, things may be looking up for BlackBerry.  Time will tell.

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