BlackBerry 10 brings new messaging options, 70K third-party apps
With the release of its long-awaited BlackBerry 10 mobile operating system, Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) is adding a series of new software and multimedia features while also radically reshaping its corporate image: Moving forward, the device maker will operate under the BlackBerry brand, eliminating the RIM name.
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"From this point forward, RIM is now BlackBerry," said CEO Thorsten Heins during Wednesday morning's BlackBerry 10 launch event. "One brand, one promise."
BlackBerry 10 is highlighted by the expansion of the platform's signature BlackBerry Messenger service, which will now include Wi-Fi-enabled voice calling and video chat features. BBM users may also share screens in real time with other BlackBerry 10 contacts, boosting collaborative possibilities. The complementary BlackBerry Hub offers a single point of access for all personal and professional conversations, including BBM messages, email and social media updates.
BlackBerry 10 also brings BlackBerry Flow, which promises to combine apps and features more seamlessly--for example, tapping on an attendee listed for a meeting to see their latest tweet or social networking profile. The new BlackBerry Remember aggregates information from websites, emails, photos, documents and other files, leveraging that data to set up to-do lists, create tasks, assign due dates and track project progress. BlackBerry 10 also touts built-in support for Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) Exchange ActiveSync to simplify access to Outlook information as well as BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10, which promises secure access to work email, "behind the firewall" applications and data.
Despite its emphasis on enterprise usage, BlackBerry 10 is also courting the consumer market. The BlackBerry Balance technology separates and secures work applications and data from personal content, while the new Story Maker enables users to bring together photos and videos along with music and effects to produce HD movies that can be shared across social media sites.
Also new: The overhauled BlackBerry 10 browser. The HTML5-based browser supports multiple tabs and private browsing, and it integrates with the platform to simplify content sharing.
"We will soon give you more ways to connect your mobile experience to not just other people, but the whole world around you," Heins said. "We will be a leader in connecting you to your Internet of things."
BlackBerry 10 will hit the market powering two new smartphones: The BlackBerry Z10 and Q10. The former will go on sale in the U.K. beginning tomorrow, expanding worldwide in the days and weeks to follow. In the U.S., AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T), Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ), Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) and T-Mobile USA will announce BlackBerry 10 purchase pre-registration later today; device pricing will vary according to each operator and retail partner.
The introduction of BlackBerry 10 coincides with the launch of the rebranded BlackBerry World storefront (formerly BlackBerry App World), which will offer more than 70,000 third-party BlackBerry 10 applications at launch, among them apps from high-profile partners like Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), LinkedIn, Skype, Twitter, foursquare, WhatsApp, MLB At Bat, ESPN Scorecenter, CBS Sports, Evernote, SAP, Citrix, Soundhound, The Weather Channel, eMusic, Slacker and DropBox. Mobile gaming publishers committing to the platform include Rovio Entertainment, Electronic Arts, Gameloft and Disney.
BlackBerry Development Head Alec Saunders said that emerging developers are also enthused about the new platform: One recent port-a-thon event yielded 15,000 BlackBerry 10 apps, and another event a week later generated another 19,000. Participants included a 12-year-old developer in Latin America and a 15-year-old in India.
"We have put together the largest app catalog ever for a first-generation product launch in mobile," Saunders said Wednesday, adding he is "Totally stoked. Totally pumped."
BlackBerry World additionally features premium film and television downloads and rentals from Hollywood studios and independents including 20th Century Fox, Lionsgate, MGM, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Walt Disney Studios and Warner Bros, as well as DRM-free music downloads from major labels Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group alongside a host of indie labels. In October 2012, RIM signed 7digital as the store's official music download service provider, with Rovi--which powers the BlackBerry PlayBook Video Store--on tap to handle film and TV downloads.
BlackBerry closed out Wednesday's media event by naming Grammy-winning singer Alicia Keys its new global creative director. Keys said she will work closely with app developers and publishers to design new content and services for the platform.
RIM is betting on BlackBerry 10 to reignite consumer enthusiasm for its platform. BlackBerry devices accounted for just 1.1 percent of all smartphones sold in the U.S. during the 12 weeks ending Dec. 23, 2012, according to Kantar Worldpanel ComTech data published last week.
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