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Research In Motion previews BlackBerry 6 software

BlackBerry manufacturer Research In Motion gave a peek of the next major version of its smartphone operating system this morning--an upgrade that looks to bring the traditionally keyboard-centric BlackBerry much closer to Apple and Google's touch-oriented mobile software.


I use language like "peek" and "looks to" because RIM has yet to post any details of this update besides a two-minute highlight reel that's more of an extended ad. Before you click through to watch it, I should warn you that its characters' dancing and its use of the Black Eyed Peas' "Boom Boom Pow" (how did this group's work become the designated hip-hop soundtrack option for tech events?) may be a little cringe-inducing.

Anyway, the video and the firsthand accounts of such reporters as ZDNet's Jason Hiner and's Sascha Segan do make one thing clear: RIM no longer expects a BlackBerry to rely on a physical keyboard or even buttons of any kind. Instead, you'll execute commands with simple one and two-finger swipes, selecting particular options by tapping icons in pop-up palettes instead of scrolling up and down onscreen menus.

That would be a major rethink of the BlackBerry user interface. I happen to think it's badly needed, but such a shift can be a risk when millions of users have memorized the old way of doing things--think Microsoft Office veterans hate figuring out Office 2007's rebuilt interface.

BlackBerry 6, which Hiner reports has a predicted shipping date of the "next calendar quarter," will also feature a new Web browser built on the same open-source WebKit framework as those on the iPhone, in Android and in Palm's webOS devices.

For other details--in lieu of any sort of comprehensive presentation on RIM's own site--you have to turn leaks reported elsewhere. For example, a week ago the Boy Genius Report blog posted a first-look assessment and screenshot gallery of an early version of BlackBerry 6.

Even that detailed description, however, says nothing about one of RIM's bigger problems: its slow, clunky and poorly stocked App Word application store. Even Palm's thin App Catalog looks good next to that.

Presumably, Palm will have more details about its next software as its release approaches. When that happens, what do you hope to hear from the company? What do you expect to hear?

By Rob Pegoraro  |  April 27, 2010; 5:45 PM ET
Categories:  Mobile  
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I guess like the Blackberry, the highlight reel was developed in Canada. It has that feel. Like the Canadian TV programs you watch when you are in a hotel room in Montreal or Calgary and can't get anything else.

I had to go back, pausing the video several times. I can't think with that damn screen jumping around.

The message I get is that "We are now at 70-80% of the capability of the iPhone, at least with respect to the user interface."

[App WorLd]

Posted by: RepealObamacareNow | April 27, 2010 8:17 PM | Report abuse

Please, do not copy or even try to mimic Iphone's interface. I have my blackberry 9700 because its seems all the other phone manufactures are going on the route with touchscreen, no physical keyboard and other personal nuisances. The blackberry is more popular than the iphone in the USA because its different. Its truely a multitasking phone and it does what you needed it do without all the unwanted eye candy. If RIM goes to copy the iphone interface..I'm staying with my 9700 as long as it lasts.

Posted by: dothack | April 28, 2010 12:23 PM | Report abuse

@dothack "The blackberry is more popular than the iphone in the USA because its different." lol? Sorry. Just needed to point that out.

Not sure what conclusions we can even draw, but it seems that asides from suits and college kids they're really making a push to make blackberry a more complete media device like the iPhone, Android and Windows Phone 7 phones. But everyone I know with a blackberry either uses it for email/work or texting (two separate categories of people).

I use my phone mainly for browsing the internet, navigation, playing a few games, recording some information and moderate texting. I have my iPhone and I feel that Android and Windows Phone 7 make compelling cases to change my phone when the time comes.. But blackberry? I guess we'll see what they can offer.

Posted by: adityabanerjee | April 28, 2010 3:41 PM | Report abuse

How do we know that Windows Phone 7 devices will be "a more complete media device" or will "make a compelling case to change my phone"? Did you steal a Windows Phone 7 prototype along with that iPhone 4 prototype?

Posted by: 54Stratocaster | April 29, 2010 2:21 AM | Report abuse

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