|By||http://e27.cohttp://e27.sg/2012/12/11/is-legacy-holding-research-in-motion-back-from-true-innovation/||| Dec 11, 2012 | Corporations|
Having followed the BlackBerry 10 development since the Developer Conference last year, it is good to see that the smartphone pioneer is ready to get back into the game with the imminent launch of the BlackBerry 10 devices. Thorsten Heins is playing his game cautiously, and rightfully so. At the BlackBerry Jam Americas, Thorsten mentioned that BlackBerry 10 gave Research In Motion a shot at being the Number Three smartphone player in the market. That comment immediately drew criticism from most of the Western media as being a low-driven goal. Thorsten later explained that the first step would be to aim for the Number Three spot first, getting things right, before taking on Google and Apple in for the top two spots. Research In Motion is in this to win it, starting small and working their way up.
BlackBerry Hub and Peek makes the ultimate user combination
Of all the features of BlackBerry 10, my favorites are the combination of the BlackBerry Hub with the Peek gesture. This combination eliminates the need for a home button and provides users with the full touchscreen experience.
BlackBerry Hub allows for integration of third-party applications such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Think of it as a souped up notification panel that Android and iOS users now have, with the added ability to perform tasks within BlackBerry Hub itself.
Peek allows users to flow through their applications, easily switching from the current application to one that requires their immediate attention. It even allows you to preview or “peek” at what the latest notifications are before committing to switching applications.
Predictive typing on BlackBerry 10 touchscreen keyboards
BlackBerry has always been known for their physical keyboards. With BlackBerry 10, they will be bringing to users a predictive touchscreen keyboard for the full-touch device and its performance looks stunning. In my opinion, the predictive keyboard provides for a better typing experience than the Autocorrect feature for iOS devices. While Autocorrect seems to take the character of Apple’s “my way or the high way” attitude of either using the one suggested word or rejecting it, the BlackBerry 10′s predictive keyboard provides multiple suggestions pegged to their starting alphabet keys that users can flick upwards to select them. Best of all? It switches seamlessly between multiple languages, even if they are used in the same sentence. And the system gets smarter as it “learns” the typing habits of the user. N4BB compared the BlackBerry 10 keyboard to the Android version of SwiftKey 3 here.
The ease of typing was evident at the BlackBerry Jam Asia event in Thailand when Jam Hack developers had to demonstrate their applications on stage. However, typing of email addresses were noticeably slower as they were not normal sentences. Hence, the lack of suggested words.
A more powerful BlackBerry Messenger
BlackBerry Messenger used to be one of the premium messaging applications for mobile, even if it was not cross-platform. But with other applications such as Whatsapp, Line, Viber and WeChat, users are spoiled for choice. Not to mention Apple’s own iMessage.
Its good to see Research In Motion finally putting more thought into expanding the functions of BlackBerry Messenger with BlackBerry Messenger 7, now in Beta. BlackBerry Messenger 7 includes a voice-over-Internet-Protocol feature, allowing users to make voice calles over a wireless network.
BlackBerry Messenger now has over 3,000 connected apps with 60 million active users worldwide.
Why a physical keyboard device?
Developers have had access to the BlackBerry Dev Alpha devices since this April at the BlackBerry Jam in Orlando. Since then, Research In Motion has seeded these devices, including the latest BlackBerry Dev Alpha B released at the BlackBerry Jam Americas in San Jose in September, to developers around the world. These devices have been full touchscreen devices that allowed developers to build applications for BlackBerry 10 using all the features mentioned above.
At the BlackBerry Jam Asia in Thailand, Research In Motion announced the upcoming third BlackBerry Dev Alpha which will be a physical keyboard device. For someone who has been watching the development of the BlackBerry 10 on a full touchscreen device, although on a prototype, it seems odd that a physical keyboard or hybrid is being introduced. Almost counter-intuitive even.
A physical keyboard or hybrid device would have no use for the predictive touchscreen keyboard that Research In Motion has been so proudly showing off. Peek will probably not be as intuitive as on a full touchscreen device. So why launch one? The reason Research In Motion gave was because there are hardcore BlackBerry fans who still love their physical keyboards.
Would Research In Motion be better off concentrating on making their full touchscreen devices the best it has instead of concentrating on too many options? Research In Motion currently has six devices planned for the BlackBerry 10 launch, three full touchscreen and the other three with physical keyboards. The full touchscreen devices will be available first.
Having these options also creates problems for developers building applications for BlackBerry 10 devices. The full touchscreen BlackBerry 10 devices are expected to have a 1280 x 768 screen while the physical keyboard version is expected to have a square screen of 720 x 720. Research In Motion currently has around 50,000 developers building applications for its platform. The developers I have spoken to mentioned that the strong support that Research In Motion has given them is one of the reasons they have continued to be loyal to BlackBerry. Having different screen sizes will make things harder for these developers.
Catering to the preferences of loyal users is one thing, but if Research In Motion is looking to continue to innovate, maybe it is time they burn their bridges and move forward with full touchscreen devices instead.