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 PCMag.com'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?
April 27, 2010; 5:45 PM ET
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