A preview of BlackBerry OS 6 shows vast improvement for Research In Motion, but it is very Apple-like in look and feel. That’s good because RIM may have “caught up” but if that’s all the company has done, will it be enough to increase market share?

If I described a touchscreen smartphone as having universal search, album cover scrolling, and a WebKit browser with multitouch support, many folks would guess I was speaking about Apple’s iPhone. Some would say instead that I was talking about the Google Android handset and a select few might even name the Palm Pre as the phone I’m talking about. But I’m not describing any of those phones. I’m talking about upcoming BlackBerry devices, based on a preview video of BlackBerry OS 6.

As I watched the video, I couldn’t help but think “iPhone.” The new BlackBerry OS 6 interface has definite underpinnings in Apple’s iOS4 look and feel. In fairness, so too do the other smartphone platforms mentioned above, but there’s a subtle difference — those platforms have already emulated the iPhone and are starting to evolve beyond Apple’s mobile vision. The HTC Sense UI for Android and Palm’s innovative multitasking card paradigm are two examples. Although it’s early yet, I’m wondering if BlackBerry OS 6 will be enough for Research in Motion to catch up with competitors from a platform standpoint.

To be sure, I like what I see in the platform preview. Clearly, RIM is rethinking touchscreen devices, which is positive — neither Storm, nor the Storm 2 have dented iPhone sales, for example. And the social networking integration in the new platform reminds me of a similar function I enjoy using on my Android handset. Overall, the platform looks good, but perhaps it should have looked this way well over a year ago.

Maybe I’m just too demanding and spoiled by the fast pace of Android development — it seems like every few days I have another custom ROM or official update to apply to my Nexus One that makes the phone incrementally better. But for all of RIM’s market share growth a few years ago, the BlackBerry is slowly starting to wither on the vine — in the first quarter of 2010, Gartner estimated a market share drop for RIM from the prior year. Who gained during that time? The movers and shakers: Apple and Google.

Keep that in mind as you watch the video preview. BlackBerry OS 6 looks vastly improved over the current BlackBerry platform, but the real question may be: how will it compare to iOS4 and Android? Take a look and tell me what you think of BlackBerry’s future operating system. It definitely looks to have “caught up,” but is that enough?

Related research on GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):

To Win in the Mobile Market, Focus on Consumers

  1. BBOS6 looks more like the Sense UI then anything from Apple

  2. Zach Steele Monday, July 12, 2010

    BBOS6 looks pretty strong. That may not be enough, though; a nice looking operating system doesn’t cut it anymore (Palm, etc). What really makes a platform is the app ecosystem; RIM can do all it wants with its webkit browser functionality and cool navigational tricks, but without the app ecosystem it’s all fluff. RIM hasn’t announced any changes to its app store, which is quickly lagging behind those of its competitors. In today’s news, I was more excited about Google’s graphical app building than the BBOS6 sneak peak. RIM really needs to step up it’s app ecosystem if it wants to survive.

  3. I watched the OS6 video (the newer one not the people dancing to some rap music) and I said to myself – this is just another “me too”. iPhone and Android already have all these features and as already been pointed out – its in the APPS now. People don’t just want a phone, but they want an information, gaming, music, social experience. They want the combination of a Nintendo DS and a Sony PSP along with a rock solid reliable phone as well as a movie player, an ebook reader and whatever else you can think of. People don’t want to carry around an MP3 player, a movie player, an ebook reader, a phone, a computer. They want it ALL in one device. No one device – either phone or computer or tablet does this as yet. If Blackberry can pull off combining all these functions on one device and market it properly then I think they can catch up or pull ahead of Apple and Android. If not its a mega fail.

  4. Mauricio V. Monday, July 12, 2010

    I don’t really see anything that would drive me to purchase this phone (own the 3GS). Moreover, I don’t understand RIM’s plans, isn’t their loyal fan base heavy e-mail/note taking business users?

    This phone seems oriented towards the younger generation, but that generation is thriving on the healthy app store ecosystems in Android and iPhone.

    I feel that RIM should instead innovate further in productivity/collaboration tools which would attract the more business-focused fan base which is quickly losing interest in their product.

  5. Each of the new phones stress one aspect over another. Either its a great movie player, or a great app runner or a great web browser, or a great MP3 player. People want their phone to be all things to all people. They want it to play games, give them directions, be able to look anything up on the Internet, socially interact through mediums like Facebook and Twitter and others. They want it to play movies on the go and be an ebook reader and perform all the functions of a portable game machine like the PSP or DS and be a GPS and be an ebook reader and a music player and run applications and be a phone all at the same time. If Blackberry can do this with OS6 and devices that run it, and if Blackberry can market it properly (that first OS6 video was TERRIBLE), then they MIGHT have a chance. Right now the momentum is with Apple and Android. Microsoft’s Windows 7 phones are vaporware – lots of talk and very little action. Everyone that is not on the Apple/iPhone bandwagon is jumping on the Android bandwagon. We see Apple loosing some credibility with the troubles the iPhone 4 is having. I like Blackberry. I’ve had 2 Android phones and sent them back. Reminds me too much of Linux and I run Windows. I like the way Blackberrys work. However Blackberry is getting a raw deal from Verizon because they are charging 39.99 a month for a Blackberry data plan (I guess because of Blackberry messenger and Blackberry Servers) – whereas the other phones are 29.99 data plan per month. I’m being penalized because I have chosen Blackberry over Windows Mobile or Android or WebOS (Palm). It stinks. But that is the only gripe I have with Verizon because their service is outstanding and their network is rock solid! I choose Verizon over AT&T and Sprint anyday. I hope Blackberry can come up with the devices and OS to at least stay in the race that is running at a breakneck pace in the mobile phone race.

  6. Copying Apple just like Android did and everybody else is doing, absolutely nothing original here, sad really.

    Are we gonna have to wait on Apple before we get the next evolution in UI ? It sure looks like it to me with nothing but lame copycat software developers that cannot think outside the box.

    1. Its not about copying apple but something OS developers need to mould their platform into to cater the needs of users .
      Be it the professional crown or the young gen .

  7. hi om, the other thing i would add is that it’s still just talk. they have not launched anything meaningfully evolutionary much less revolutionary (which is what they need to do next, I am sure you agree!). I have been very disappointed with how slow they are pushing out the great new stuff. not what i remember their cycles used to be like. they need to get moving or they will get palmed.

  8. Um, Looks lovely. But, RIM could get by with less than lovely and retain market share so long as they have a good browser. That is critical. However… Development?

    RIM is dead without better development tools and a rational OS. Android and iOS are the dominant environments on which to build at the moment, and third place will be a battle between Microsoft, RIM, and Nokia. RIM has its established market on which to build, but Microsoft will likely have the most robust developer tools.

    A new coat of paint is wonderful, but the rafters are rotten.

  9. Personally the video raised more questions in my mind than anything. Mostly because it’s easy to show 3 second snippets of what you’d like your next version to do. It’s Q3 now and BBOS6 is supposed to be out in Q3. Even if RIM’s targeting September they should be (and need to be) able to release something far closer to reality than that.

  10. Blackberry? I hear that word and all I can think about is the spinning hourglass that would appear for hours at a time every time I was trying to do something important. They missed the boat.


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