Research in Motion has thousands of employees but, in some respects, it’s a startup whose prospects hinge on the much-anticipated introduction of the BB10 on Jan. 30.
With negative sentiment surrounding Canada’s flagship technology company slowly starting to dissipate as more details about the BB10 are unveiled, I got the opportunity yesterday to get my hands – albeit briefly – on the Dev Alpha unit.
One word: impressive.
In a nutshell, the BB10 is a fresh and innovative smartphone with definite curb appeal that keeps some of the features that BlackBerry users have loved over the years, while adding a bunch of new bells and whistles.
As important, the BB10 is a different creature from the iPhone and Android devices, which gives it a good shot at carving out its own identity without being seen as a me-too smartphone. This is no doubt a difficult feat to pull off but the BB10 seems to do the trick.
As RIM attempts to become a vibrant smartphone player again, it is interesting to hear the company is trying to go back to its startup roots with a more flexible, agile and transparent corporate culture. This is a crucial issue in a marketplace that shifts quickly as new devices and players enter the market.
So, what’s cool about the BB10?
While it may take existing BlackBerry users to get up to speed, BB10 is a device without a home button. Instead, it uses a “Hub” that makes it easy to navigate from app to app using swipes on the screen. If the BB10 has a killer app, “Hub” may be it because it enhances usability while separating BB10 from the pack.
From a features perspective, the touchscreen keyboard stands out. With strong industrial design, it feels like a regular keyboard while featuring predictive technology in which letters and words appear on the keyboard rather than the screen.
As the smartphone becomes a constant part of our lives, BlackBerry Flow is a way to separate your easily work and personal lives by changing how BB10 looks, feels and operates based on whether you’re in work or personal mode.
The camera is also impressive, particularly the ability to rewind or go forward (aka Time Shift) to capture just the right photo.
RIM has done an impressive job in developing BB10, which seems to be almost fully baked. As more analysts and reporters get their hands on the BB10, it is easy to understand why more of them are starting to change their minds about RIM’s prospects, which is a major accomplishment.
With the launch of BB10 in just over two months, it will be interesting from a corporate and PR perspective to see how RIM continues to get people excited the BB10. This is a story that has been unfolding since July when RIM decided to go on the PR offensive in an effort to control the story.
One of the keys will be keeping the story front and centre during the holiday season, which is the biggest time of the year for smartphone purchases. If RIM can convince people to wait until the end of January, there could be some strong pent-up demand.
For existing BlackBerry users, the BB10 offers plenty of reasons to be openly proud again. For consumers looking to get a smartphone, the BB10 will give them another viable smartphone option. And for iPhone and Android users, BB10 could give them a reason to reconsider their device of choice.