January 30, 2013 saw the launch of BlackBerry 10. There was a lot going on this morning in New York City at Pier 36 on South Street. I was there at 9am putting on my press badge and getting a front row seat.
Over a year ago, CrackBerry.com’s founder and editor in chief, Kevin Michaluk said that he would not cut his hair until the official release of BlackBerry 10. Today’s event was started with scissors going through his hair and cutting off the ponytail. From there, we moved on to a real-time connection to all the sites around the world where the simultaneous launch event was taking place.
Thorsten Heins, CEO of Research in Motion, came out on stage along with about 12,000 employees on screen and began to count to 10. Thus was revealed the new and exciting BlackBerry 10. Two models were shown, the touchscreen only Z10 and the hard keyboard Q10. The models will have slightly different names depending on what country they are sold in. In the UK, the Q10 is the X10.
Next, Heins made a monumental announcement. As of 10:27 this morning Research in Motion would be no more. Since people use BlackBerry phones running BlackBerry software, the company will now be known as BlackBerry. Just like that, we start off with an announcement that changed the company; literally changed the company. Heins said “One brand, one promise. The promise to have true mobile computing, the promise to be connected where ever you are and the promise of getting things done.”
BlackBerry phones have mostly been associated as the corporate or enterprise phone of choice. The problem is that because that phone goes through the company firewall, you can only use it as a work phone. I know of many IT people who always carry two phones with them. Even if the second phone is also a BlackBerry, they need two separate phones for two different purposes.
Another big announcement is the ability to have two profiles on one device. You can have your personal profile with all your music, photos and e-mails, but with a swipe of your finger you can click on your business profile. This profile can be setup to go through the corporate firewall and have all of your business contacts, e-mails and conversations. Both are easily and quickly accessible and both are separate and distinct from each other. One phone connected to everything that you need for both worlds is pretty cool. This is called the BlackBerry balance. The ability to have separate professional communications and applications from personal items like music and photos is called “balance.”
Heins talked about how they spent a great deal of time discussing whether they should adopt one of the currently established operating systems or come up with something new. After much debating, they decided that since the phone was completely new, the platform should also be completely new. He went on to mention that since QNX and RIM have always had a good connection, they would build the new platform based on QNX.
The phone was also totally redesigned. It has a slick design with a very nice feel to it. Gone are the familiar control buttons at the bottom. You move around and use the phone’s abilities by swiping your finger. Gone is also having to switch applications and go back and forth between such apps like e-mail and the browser. With a simple swipe of your finger, you can see who the e-mail is from without closing the browser. This is called Flow.
You flow from one area to another seamlessly. As you flow, you still keep your applications open. If you have music playing while you are browsing, you can still answer your e-mail while the other apps are running. All of the apps are in real-time and still active.
Another new feature of the BlackBerry 10 OS is the hub. Apps like Facebook have been integrated with the BlackBerry 10 hub. All e-mails and notifications from Twitter and Facebook go to the BlackBerry Hub. Think of it as a nerve center that is accessible with a swipe of your finger even if you have another application open. You can peek into it and open an e-mail, or return to the previous application without opening the e-mail.
Heins introduced Vivek Bhardwaj, head of software portfolio. Vivek demonstrated how the new features work. In addition to flow and hub, there is BlackBerry 10 remember. Items can be flagged, and are then grouped together. Remember is intended to organize content into folders. A similar feature is Intuitive Aggregation of Data. BlackBerry 10 will intuitively collect data. It can recognize a connection and put together all of the connections into the contacts. On one screen you can see the latest e-mail, the last meeting, the latest Twitter post and any calendar item. All of this is displayed by simply looking through the hub.
Major changes have been made to BlackBerry Messenger. Video is now included because the phone has a front camera. Vivek says that the video chat facility will help users stay connected with family and friends, even at work. He made a connection to his counterpart in the UK and setup a fast, real-time chat session. At one point, Vivek asked to see photos that were taken and his counterpart was able to “share” his screen. Basically, the phone in the UK took over the screen in the U.S. and all the photos could be scrolled through.
The camera itself is another new feature. When you want to take a picture, you can tap anywhere on the screen to snap the shot. You will actually be taking a quick series of pictures. A function called Time Share will allow you to freeze moments. You can take a picture of someone, highlight the head and using a clock like icon, you can scroll back to a different facial shot and change the picture. Now you don’t have to have closed eyes or you can put that smile back on someone’s face.
The next new feature to be demonstrated was Story Maker. BlackBerry introduced an app called Story Maker which is designed to make a collection of content such as photos and videos into one stream. BlackBerry Story Maker allows you to create mini movies that can be shared on social networks or sent directly to someone. Since Near Field Communication (NFC) is now incorporated into BlackBerry 10, you can hold your phone next to another phone and instantly copy your story to them.
While Vivek was sending an e-mail, he demonstrated another interesting feature. He started the message in English, and then he switched to write a sentence in French and another one in German. Each language was switched without effort and the correct dictionary was used to correct spelling errors in each of the languages. This is done by a simple swipe of your finger.
Vivek and BlackBerry have been working with many developers. They are holding a developer’s challenge where the best new app will be worth $10,000 to the designer. While the initial goal was to have 100,000 apps ready for today’s launch, there are 70,000 apps now that work on the BlackBerry 10. They also have a commitment from over 1,000 current apps A small sampling of the apps package that is included fresh out of the box is Skype, Kindle, SAP and Angry Birds. BlackBerry also has a commitment for banking and travel apps.
The next announcement that was made this morning was definitely an interesting one. Heins talked about getting more consumers to add to the already large enterprise customer base. He was focused on the busy women in the world and how BlackBerry could help them organize work, personal and family life. Toward this end, he created a new position. The position is Global Creative Director. The person hired to fill this new title is Alicia Keys. Because she is a mother, a performer, a small business owner and a female, she is perfect for the job.
Keys says that she sees her role as helping to shape the technology platform. She will be working with application designers to reduce the gap between work and private lives on one phone. She will team up with writers, directors, entertainment businesses and athletes to connect everyone and to get their support. This is being called the Keep Moving Project.
This is where the presentation portion came to an end. This was followed by a very brief question and answer section. On the question of U.S. availability, the answer was sometime in the middle of March for the L10 and toward the end of April for the Q10. This is because while all of the carriers have made a commitment to BlackBerry, they want to take it slow and make sure that everything works. Both models will be available in the UK and Canada in the next couple of days.
When asked if BlackBerry was only focusing on phones, Heins said that the current PlayBook would be upgradable to BlackBerry 10. He also mentioned that new tablets were something to look for in the future. He went on to say that he saw tablets as being used for more specific areas such as medicine.
Heins was also asked if this was a one-time release for the launch. He made it clear that from here on BlackBerry would be moving forward. They will have a more regular line of products that will be updated periodically based on enterprise and consumer use.
Edited by Brooke Neuman