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New PlayBook operating system will bring Android apps; BB10 will bring much need revitalization of phone line

From talking about "baking cookies" to drawing Saturday morning cartoon characters, smartphone maker Research in Motion, Ltd.'s (TSE:RIM) has been behaving a bit erratically of late.  The troubled company is still solidly profitable, but has seen its sales and profits plunge in recent months as its business user-heavy customer has defected to Google Inc.'s (GOOG) Android or Apple, Inc.'s (AAPL) iPhone.  In the U.S. it had sunk to a mere 4.5 percent of purchases by December 2011.  The sales flops have forced a long overdue CEO change, bumping company co-founders Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie out of the top spot.

I. "London" is a Full-touch Screen RIM Superphone

But for all the negativity surrounding RIM, the company appears to be in a position much like its Finnish phonemaker peer Nokia Oyj. (HEL:NOK1V), in that it appears to have realized its sales issues and committed to delivering exciting products.  The first of those exciting products just leaked, under the code-name "London".

An ad proclaims:

RIM London
[Image Source: NeoWin]

The phone could indeed be a game-changer if RIM can deliver the polished OS to back it.  While the specs have not been announced yet, the phone in look allow is instantly appealing, bring to mind the popular iPhone and Droid Razr from Motorola.  RIM has upped the ante over its rivals, though, completely eliminating the physical face button.

Rumored hardware includes either a Texas Instruments, Inc. (TXN) or a Qualcomm, Inc. (QCOM) dual-core 1.5 GHz ARM processor.  The devices reportedly will carry 16 GB of NAND flash (expandable), 1 GB of DRAM, an 8 MP rear facing camera w/ flash, and 2 MP front-facing video-chat camera.

The still of the OS shows a rich tile-driven music app, although it’s hard to say whether this look extends to the rest of RIM's new smartphone operating system -- BlackBerry 10.  

We're hoping it does, as tiles seem to be the cutting edge of user design and graphical appeal.  While Apple (for now) is sticking to its homely grid of apps, Android has move deeper into the land of rich GUIs and tiles with the release of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich.  It is following in the footsteps of Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) who has been offering a rich tile-driven GUI experience since day one with Windows Phone.

RIM struggled in its earliest attempts at a touchscreen phone, with the buggy Storm.  By contrast the Torch and Torch 2 were much more solid efforts, though they suffered in sales.  However, the Torch and Torch 2 fell back on RIM's strong physical keyboard and optical trackpads.  RIM has shown promise with late 2011 BB 7.0 all-touch implementations of its popular lines, the BlackBerry Bold Curve 9380 and the BlackBerry Torch 9860 (commonly called the "BlackBerry Touch").  Both launched in Nov. 2011.  To that end RIM's "London" will be RIM's first all-touch line since the Storm, but hopes to build on more successful later touch variants like the Curve 9380 and Torch 9860.

Torch 2 v. Torch 1
London is RIM's first high-end smartphone since last year's Torch 2 (left) and its first full-touch (no keyboard) line since the ill-fated BlackBerry Storm. [Image Source: Engadget]

As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.  It is unknown when "London" will launch, but the leak of advertising suggest it will likely land early in H2 2012.  That is a comfort to RIM's contingent of supporters, who have suffered through their fair share of pessimistic news in recent months.

Much like the Nokia Lumia 900, RIM's BB10 London is the company's game-changer, its next generation superphone.  This will be one topic to watch extremely closely as the launch approaches.

II. PlayBook OS 2.0 -- At Last, Android Apps!

In related news, RIM is preparing a major update to its tablet operating system.  

RIM's first bid at the tablet market -- the RIM PlayBook -- had relatively strong hardware and some good features.  But overall it was a disappointment in that it lacked the built in business email client, business calendar app, and other features that RIM's business-oriented user base have come to expect.  The device was a sales flop, forcing RIM to cut its financial outlook.

But in a way the OS represented RIM making a painful, but necessary change -- moving away from business services and into the consumer app space.  By switching to push email, RIM is signaling that it may start to shift its smartphone lineup away from dedicated business email services and towards the traditional push email used by Android and iOS.  This is a good thing, from a consumer standpoint, as it removes a largely needless $10 USD/month (or more with taxes) "BlackBerry tax".  In that regard one of the PlayBook's most criticized omissions may actually be a sign of positive change.

On the other hand, the platform's lack of apps has made it the equivalent of the ill-fated Hewlett-Packard Comp. (HPQwebOS TouchPad. At last count there were only around 4,000-5,000 apps, with a couple thousand more sitting in the submissions process.

Lack of apps can spell a quick death for a platform.

RIM is looking to ensure that it does not become the next webOS, preparing to roll out PlayBook OS 2.0.  This new operating system's biggest addition is BlackBerry Runtime for Android Apps -- a featured initially promised during launch hype for the PlayBook, but pulled at the last minute.

BlackBerry Runtime allows developers to quickly and painlessly repackage Android 2.3 ("Gingerbread") or earlier apps to work on the tablet.  In doing so, it opens up the door to 200,000+ apps.  Of course, the one fly in the ointment is that developers have to go out and physically port their apps.  To that end, the net gain will like be in the tens, not hundreds, of thousands of apps.  Another minor annoyance is that RIM is forcing developers to remove all references of "Android" from their apps -- including in-game.

RIM Playbook
RIM's PlayBook will finally get Android apps. [Image Source: Venture Beat]

RIM also is encouraging developers to take the time to make a more platform-optimized port using a trio of alternative tools -- BlackBerry Plug-in for ADT, the BlackBerry Packager for Android apps and the BlackBerry SDK for Android apps.

Like BB10, PlayBook OS 2.0 is rooted in QNX, the real-time Unix-like operating system that RIM acquired in 2010.  In that sense PlayBook OS 2.0 is sort of like the "cousin" of BB10.

PlayBook OS 2.0 looks to mend broken fences with the first PlayBook OS, by rolling out an improved unified email client, capable of multi-tasking, and a new calendar client.  RIM has not clarified yet, whether these services will remain free, but it seems a strong likelihood.

So far, over two quarters of sale, RIM has moved about 700,000 PlayBooks.  While this a respectable total, it is mere twentieth of what Apple sells in a single quarter.  RIM is clearly hopeful that PlayBook OS 2.0 changes that.

With the iPad 3 hype starting to build, its critical that RIM is making these changes at this time to stay competitive.

PlayBook OS 2.0 will land before the end of February.

Update 1 -- 2/2/2012 1:05 p.m.--
The Storm was erroneously listed as RIM's last all-touch smartphone.  While it was RIM's last all-touch line, the RIM BlackBerry Bold Curve 9380 and BlackBerry Torch 9860 (sometimes referred to as the "Touch") are both all-touch.

We have corrected to reflect that the lineup will be the first to go all-touch since the Storm 1/2, but that there are current all-touch models available. (Thanks Andrew!)


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...and like usual...
By Tequilasunriser on 2/2/2012 1:45:46 PM , Rating: 1
No one gives a s*** about BlackBerry.

(Unless it involves PR disasters, then they're just entertaining.)




RE: ...and like usual...
By TheRequiem on 2/2/2012 2:18:37 PM , Rating: 1
Tens of millions of people and thousands of businesses around the world do? I wouldn't call myself a big fan of RIM, however, it is absolutely essential we have as much competition in Mobile OS'es as humanly possible to stop a possible duopoly from Google and Apple. This would stifle innovation very badly and would result in less options for consumers, higher prices, and so on. There is no reason why RIM shouldn't be able to develop a solid QNX eco-system between its new tablets and new phones and then proceed to license it out as well. I've personally seen some of the programming from this new tech and it is highly advanced and should provide a pretty impressive eco-system. It's never too late to introduce new ground-breaking technology. I think this will pit RIM against the big boys if they do it right and don't mess up the marketing. Hopefully with the recent shake-ups at RIM headquarters, we can see some decent improvement.


RE: ...and like usual...
By JasonMick (blog) on 2/2/2012 2:39:32 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Tens of millions of people and thousands of businesses around the world do? I wouldn't call myself a big fan of RIM, however, it is absolutely essential we have as much competition in Mobile OS'es as humanly possible to stop a possible duopoly from Google and Apple. This would stifle innovation very badly and would result in less options for consumers, higher prices, and so on. There is no reason why RIM shouldn't be able to develop a solid QNX eco-system between its new tablets and new phones and then proceed to license it out as well. I've personally seen some of the programming from this new tech and it is highly advanced and should provide a pretty impressive eco-system. It's never too late to introduce new ground-breaking technology. I think this will pit RIM against the big boys if they do it right and don't mess up the marketing. Hopefully with the recent shake-ups at RIM headquarters, we can see some decent improvement.

I agree.

The 2010 QNX purchase was one of RIM's former co-CEOs FEW really good decisions over the last couple years.

RIM does need to move away from its service fees for non-business customers (as it has done with the PlayBook), as that's a big turn-off.

But fundamentally RIM's business focus does give it a unique advantage, despite Apple and Android's growing savvy in this region, as well.

A lot of people mistake my RIM commentary for the TS's due to its recent criticism, but I would love to see RIM succeed.

Ultimate my writing is based on my knowledge, analysis, and perception of consumer trends.

In tech, as in politics, it's self-destructive to blindly pick one company and loyally follow it. Competition is the seed of greatness, and you should evaluate each offering's merits with fresh eyes, to the best of your ability.

I'm pretty interested to see what London brings to the table. If nothing else it sounds/looks like it has fast hardware and an awesome form factor.

Throw in access to (at least) tens of thousands of Android Apps, and you could have a strong seller.


RE: ...and like usual...
By TheRequiem on 2/2/2012 2:58:54 PM , Rating: 2
Exactly, what would the purpose of "choice" be if there wasn't any choice? It's like McDonalds and Burger King, there appears to be choice, but it's not really a choice. Together, they control the entire fast-food burger sector and by a long shot. I don't want to see any Mobile Tech company fail and the same thing happen to Mobile OS'es, I like having different phones and unique experiences.

I have had Android and Apple, and will likely try out WP7 and QNX at one point (waiting for LTE). In other regards, I also hope Microsoft can grow their OS now that they have Nokia (the worlds largest cell-phone vendor), because like RIM now, they have a unique new OS as well.

I also understand that people are washed out by what the media shows, but RIM is not "dying" and they certainly aren't going to be bankrupt anytime soon. They really aren't a bad company either, so I am uncertain as to why there is severe negative notations against them right now... what's the point? People seam to forget RIM was one of the early pioneers of smartphones. However, it will be good for them in some ways, as it has shown them the importance that they can't be too slow to respond to exponentially growing markets and technologies. I think they are taking awhile so they can be sure the product is solid before release, it almost appears that way after the Playbook failed to do so with unfinished software, but you live and learn. It wil be interesting to see the landscape in another year.


RE: ...and like usual...
By Reclaimer77 on 2/2/2012 3:17:18 PM , Rating: 1
God so many of you would really benefit from taking business classes of some sort...


RE: ...and like usual...
By TheRequiem on 2/2/2012 4:28:15 PM , Rating: 2
Great argument. I have owned a successful business for 7 years... and have a Master's degree in it.


RE: ...and like usual...
By Reclaimer77 on 2/2/2012 5:28:56 PM , Rating: 2
Really? Cause this looks like something...

quote:
Exactly, what would the purpose of "choice" be if there wasn't any choice? It's like McDonalds and Burger King, there appears to be choice, but it's not really a choice. Together, they control the entire fast-food burger sector and by a long shot. I don't want to see any Mobile Tech company fail and the same thing happen to Mobile OS'es, I like having different phones and unique experiences.


A teenager would come up with. You completely left out Wendy's, a giant in the industry, by the way.

But furthermore you of all people should know you cannot have unlimited competition and growth in the same market segment. Economics is resource allocation, you cannot have competition for the sake of competition. You're going to always have winners and losers when economics reaches it's ultimate conclusion.

RIM hasn't been competing at all in the last, lets say 5 years. They've been completely stagnant.


RE: ...and like usual...
By W00dmann on 2/2/2012 3:44:29 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
In tech, as in politics, it's self-destructive to blindly pick one company and loyally follow it. Competition is the seed of greatness, and you should evaluate each offering's merits with fresh eyes, to the best of your ability.

 
Mick, your commentary of late has been so two-faced, even I am taken aback.  You are the ultimate hypocrite.  You routinely abuse your position as DT "reporter" to flagrantly slam any corporation you personally dislike, and defend those you do (read:  your beloved Google / Android).  And yet you have the balls / arrogance / stupidity to sit there and offer us the benefit of your infinite wisdom, cautioning others against exhibiting undue bias or favoritism.
 
I really could not give a damn about your personal preferences, but I DO take SERIOUS exception to your two-faced, juvenile, slanderous, biased, misleading, sensationalistic and self-aggrandizing reporting.
 
You are the ultimate turd.


RE: ...and like usual...
By Cheesew1z69 on 2/2/2012 4:01:15 PM , Rating: 2
Don't like it, don't read. It's that simple.


RE: ...and like usual...
By JasonMick (blog) on 2/2/2012 3:57:53 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
Mick, your commentary of late has been so two-faced, even I am taken aback. You are the ultimate hypocrite. You routinely abuse your position as DT "reporter" to flagrantly slam any corporation you personally dislike, and defend those you do (read: your beloved Google / Android). And yet you have the balls / arrogance / stupidity to sit there and offer us the benefit of your infinite wisdom, cautioning others against exhibiting undue bias or favoritism.

You are either underinformed or just plain dumb...

From my most recent piece on Obama's Google+ chat:
http://www.dailytech.com/President+Obama+Invites+Y...

quote:
The President's support of Google also raises some eyebrows given Google's clever use of the "Double Irish" and "Dutch Sandwich" (legal) tax evasion strategies, funneling money through Ireland, the Netherlands and Bermuda, courtesy of federal loopholes, to avoid paying federal income taxes on its profits. These strategies reportedly saved Google $1B USD in 2011 and cut the company's effective tax rate to 18.8 percent, far less than the standard 35-40 most small businesses pay on earnings.

Google officially raised almost a million dollars for the President's election bid.

Hint for your comprehension: the use of the word "clever" is intentioned as semi-sarcastic.
quote:
I really could not give a damn about your personal preferences, but I DO take SERIOUS exception to your two-faced, juvenile, slanderous, biased, misleading, sensationalistic and self-aggrandizing reporting.

You are the ultimate turd

I take issue with your poorly written pro-Apple trolling and uninformed vehemence.

Obviously I am not going to please you, nor should I want to. But I suppose I should thank you for clicking.


RE: ...and like usual...
By TheRequiem on 2/2/2012 4:30:16 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
I take issue with your poorly written pro-Apple trolling and uninformed vehemence.


LMAO


RE: ...and like usual...
By W00dmann on 2/2/12, Rating: -1
RE: ...and like usual...
By Reclaimer77 on 2/2/2012 6:05:58 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
You see, Mick, you should not care what my personal preferences are, nor should I care about yours. What I DO care about is responsible, fair-minded, even-handed journalism. This is the point that is continually lost on you. I do not care that you adore your Android; I DO care that it grossly influences your writing style the result of which is that you take every opportunity to recklessly distort and slander those corporations you feel are at odds with your beloved Google. Get it? The fact that you then lecture your dear readers on the merits of remaining unbaised and open-minded is rich beyond belief.


I don't see any of that in Mick's writings on this subject.

It sounds like what you want is cold analytical hardware reviews and benchmarks. Daily Tech has never been that. This IS journalism. Journalism doesn't live in a vacuum.


RE: ...and like usual...
By W00dmann on 2/2/12, Rating: -1
RE: ...and like usual...
By retrospooty on 2/3/2012 6:53:33 AM , Rating: 1
Sounds like you should read the articles then. No-one if forcing you to click.


RE: ...and like usual...
By LordSojar on 2/3/2012 8:55:38 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
I don't see any of that in Mick's writings on this subject.


But you forget, Jason Mick is ZE EVIL and he hates everyone except Android and and and and he's a big doody head!

We agree yet again Reclaimer... WORLD. ENDING. APOCALYPSE. I kid, but seriously, after you remove all the political leanings that are total opinion based, you find that the logical people are the only ones who post commentary that makes sense. People see this as hypocritical because they have inherent bias. Jason Mick, while certainly not perfect, is consistently inconsistent. Personally, I see that as a good thing.... but whatever.


RE: ...and like usual...
By bety on 2/3/2012 5:12:14 AM , Rating: 2
No, he's correct. It's one thing for you to be laughably biased...something almost universally recognized by readers, regardless of whether their opinions coincide with yours.

It's yet another for you to lecture others about it. I suppose however, we can expect more, since it gives you the attention you seem to crave from your trolling.


RE: ...and like usual...
By amanojaku on 2/2/2012 9:57:06 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
No one gives a s*** about BlackBerry.

(Unless it involves PR disasters, then they're just entertaining.)
I disagree. RIM's situation seems to be one of the following, depending upon who you talk to:

1) RIM is about to hit the wall, but has time to swerve
2) RIM has hit the wall, and it's life is flashing before its eyes
3) RIM has passed through the wall, but the morgue is late for the pickup

Personally, I think RIM has time to swerve. It has a few billion in assets, has large clients all over the world, and has a deserved reputation for making a decent product.

The issue is that the times have changed, and RIM hasn't. A Coupe de Ville just isn't hip anymore. RIM needs to appeal to the Android/iPhone crowd and make something similar. The Torch isn't it, though.


Loved that album!
By Tony Swash on 2/2/2012 2:58:14 PM , Rating: 2
That Clash album was one of my all time favourites. Still play it every so often. I saw the Clash live in 1978.




RE: Loved that album!
By JasonMick (blog) on 2/2/2012 3:59:30 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
That Clash album was one of my all time favourites. Still play it every so often. I saw the Clash live in 1978.

Now there's something we can agree on. :)

Man, I'm jealous... that must have been a great show.

Did you see them in the UK?


RE: Loved that album!
By Tony Swash on 2/2/2012 5:47:57 PM , Rating: 3
I did see them in the UK. I was in my late twenties then and in the last stages of my 1960s radical activist phase and was living in the East End of of London which is the poorest and most ethnically mixed part of the city. Back then there was a terrible atmosphere of racial tension and social disintegration and a growing and menacing racist and fascist movement called the National Front which was terrorising the streets. There had been many racist murders and attacks and there was hideous and obscene NF graffiti and posters everywhere. Pretty grim and depressing.

Then a movement called Rock Against Racism started and led by the new wave punk and post punk bands a fantastic and positive mass movement started which helped defeat the NF.

In the spring of 1978 Rock Against Racism held it's first big event which was a march followed by a huge free concert in a park in the East End. The Clash, Elvis Costello, Buzzcocks, Steel Pulse, X-Ray Spex, The Ruts, Sham 69 and Generation X all played that day. A really great day, the Clash were simply fantastic. I felt very reassured because I had seen the way a lot of punks wore swastikas and was hugely relieved to discover that they were actually passionately anti-racist and on the side of the good guys.

There is some video of the clash playing that day here

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UqJziLpnkEU

Just watching it now makes remember how intensely exciting the Clash were, I was somewhere in that vast crowd leaping about like a lunatic in a way I can, sadly, no longer do. Seems like yesterday.


RE: Loved that album!
By Cheesew1z69 on 2/3/2012 8:38:34 PM , Rating: 2
Cool story bro...


Blatant IP-infringement !
By Peter898 on 2/4/2012 10:36:55 AM , Rating: 2
I seriously doubt Joe Strummer, May He rest in Peace,
would approve of being associated with that cult ..




By flyguy29 on 2/5/2012 1:08:37 PM , Rating: 2
The playbook is not onky deficient in features, but is the only tablet that does not support mobile wifi broadband cards like Verizon's Novatel Mifi LTE wifi card. NO SUPPORT for mobile customers who want to connect to their broadband services.

RIM simply released a product that wasn't ready simply to keep its users from flocking to iOS or Android. However, RIM ignored the cardinal rule of business- focus on fixing your core business and do not dilute your competencies. RIMha smiscalculated consumer demand for tablets outside of iPad. If you cannot make it better and cheaper, don't make it at all.

Merging QNX OS with Blackberry OS enterprise security and battery life should have been RIM's due diligence all the way along. A web experience as good as iOS and Android plus the benefits if Blackberry's batterylife,email and security would have given RIM an edge in the market and keep its customers from fleeing. Now they are stuck with 2 fragmented OS's each with less feature san dperformance advanteges than a more developed iOS and Android OS.




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