Research in Motion (RIM) has had a shocker of a year. Last week’s outage was the icing on the cake, following the PlayBook’s dismal showing, the failure to bring native email to the aforementioned tablet and new BlackBerry phones hardly setting the world alight.
So news of its new, unified OS BBX should be a cause for celebration, right? Well, not just yet. Because while a newly design operating system working on tablets and phones is welcome, RIM has plenty of work to do to ensure its success.
On paper, BBX makes total sense. BlackBerry smartphone software lags way behind iOS and Android in terms of usability, even if its BBM service still manages to impress the teenage market.
The QNX platform used on the PlayBook is intuitive and a joy to use, although it lacks important features such as native email and wide-ranging apps.
But alarm bells are already ringing. While talking up BBX at RIM’s developer conference, DevCon in San Francisco, CEO Mike Lazaradis was extremely coy about when we’d be seeing phones and tablets using the operating system.
Considering he’s spent most of this year promising we’d see a QNX phone soon (it’s still MIA), perhaps he’s been advised not to say anything.
That might be seen as smart, but frankly, BlackBerry needs this OS now if it wants to save itself from the dual threats of Apple and Google.
A long wait is only going to result in sluggish sales of devices while consumers wait for something new. Of course, RIM is renowned for making promises it can’t keep. Native email was supposed to land on the PlayBook within weeks of the slate’s release, after being demonstrated back in May. We’re still waiting now.
Although version 2.0 of the PlayBook’s software was seen at DevCon, there’s still no word when people other than developers will get a chance to have a go.
It all bodes ill for BBX. If RIM can’t get a bump like this sorted, what chances are there that we’ll see a new BlackBerry handset running BBX in the next six months? Slim, surely.
The pressure is only going to grow. Nokia’s Windows Phones will draw attention, as will the inevitable slew of Android Ice Cream Sandwich handsets that will be revealed at next February’s Mobile World Congress.
Factor in the iPhone 4S’s blistering start and RIM should probably have had a BBX phone ready to roll now, rather than touting the OS and failing to mention when we’d see it.
If there’s nothing doing by early 2012, it’s not too much of a leap to suggest that the BlackBerry-maker is going to be in major trouble.
BBX is RIM’s last throw of the dice and it has to get it out soon to make an impact.