Citing its 80-million-strong user base, struggling smartphone maker Research In Motion (RIM) this week provided another preview of its upcoming BlackBerry 10 mobile OS, which could ship as soon as January 2013. That’s earlier than some had expected, though of course it means BlackBerry 10 will miss the crucial holiday selling season.
In a keynote address at the firm’s BlackBerry Jams Americas conference in San Jose this week, RIM President and CEO Thorsten Heins countered what seems like two straight years of bad news for the company, noting that the BlackBerry subscriber base has actually grown in 2012, to more than 80 million users. But the biggest news concerned BlackBerry 10, RIM’s oft-delayed next-generation OS that will compete with market leaders Google Android and Apple iOS.
“With BlackBerry 10, we are readying the platform for the future,” Heins said. “Collaboration, sharing, productivity, and security are the must-haves of today’s mobile platforms. With a simpler user experience, you can take action with the touch of one finger.”
BlackBerry 10 will support touch-only devices as well as those with hardware keyboards—the latter a nod to one of BlackBerry’s historic strengths. It features a new BlackBerry Hub, which marries multiple email inboxes with social networking updates, a Balance feature that slips the handset between home and work modes, and other features that bring RIM’s OS up-to-date with the competition.
“BlackBerry 10 is on track,” Heins claimed, noting that new devices based on the system are just “a few short months away.” This was met by cheers from the developer audience, which—frankly—hasn’t had a lot to cheer about lately. RIM is coming off a couple of very tough years that have included a disastrous tablet launch, network outages, software delays, and ever-diminishing market share.