I’m currently at Research In Motion’s joint press event with AT&T in New York City, where we expect to hear about the new BlackBerry OS 6, at least one new touchscreen sliding phone — the Torch — and perhaps more.
I’d estimate there are 300 members of the press here, waiting to see what RIM’s next steps are. There’s definite interest but the question is: will RIM simply catch up to what other platforms are offering or will there be some new differentiator that helps RIM support both the enterprise and keep consumers happy too.
11:05 – Mike Lazaridis, President and Co-CEO of RIM is on stage. 100 million BB sold around the world. “Say hello to the new Torch, with a WebKit browser and subsystem.” The name came from Torch Mobile, which RIM purchased prior.
11:15 – “Universal search defines the product.” Searches BlackBerry, feeds, email, settings, and people. The universal inbox handles mail, Twitter, Facebook and more.
“We invented auto-wrap, text zoom to make it easier to read text.” Looks similar to the Android function.
Showing off album art, thumbnails for media. You can sync media content over WiFi.
11:20 – Introduces Don Lindsay, Director of User Experience.
Showing off a redesigned home screen optimized for touch. “Moving between touchscreen, menus and keyboard is flexible and natural.” Home screen looks familiar to BlackBerry users, but has new features. Notification previews is one tap away, similar to the Android menu shade.
“More content on the home screen.” Contacts and bookmarks can be placed on the home screen, which uses more room. The solution? Swiping screens left and right to custom views and screens.
11:25 – Linsday is showing off universal search and says that it will be made available through an API for developers to use for apps. The search experience looks extensive, much like that of webOS: searches web, device, contacts and more just by typing.
Moving on to the enhanced media experience, starting with pictures. “We take pictures on our phone, but don’t manage them well.” BB OS 6 lets you manage and view pics by custom folders or date. You can select multiple pics with a two finger tap. The device also tags pictures by the location name. A new podcast app is also included.
WiFi Music Sync is native to the OS. “We take the metadata of your entire library of music on your device. You can tag items for later syncing. As soon as your handset sees your WiFi network at home, it auto-syncs.
11:27 – Lindsay says “We added unified social feeds.” Sounds like one integrated feed of activities from AIM, Google Talk, RSS, Twitter, Facebook and more. He shows an example of tapping a tweet in the main social feeds and the Twitter app opens. Nice integration and not too busy looking.
11:30 – Now showing a video of BlackBerry 6, similar to the videos that RIM has shared prior. So far, as good as this all looks, it appears more of a “catch up” than any step ahead. Current BlackBerry devotees will be happy, but is there anything here to grab customers away from iPhone or Android?
11:32: Linsday intros David Yach, CTO of RIM. “One of the key objectives is to offer a seamless user experience and help developers make it easier to create apps.” Talking about apps now: easier for customers to find them thanks to universal search which should help app demand from developers.
11:35 – Carrier billing of apps is expected to help devs as well. Yach is now discussing a payment API and service for in-app purchases and in-app advertising, complete with analytics for performance monitoring. “By taking these abilities, we’ve created the ability for devs to build a custom business model,” Yach says.