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 (s aapl). Some would say instead that I was talking about the Google Android (s goog) handset and a select few might even name the Palm Pre (s palm) as the phone I’m talking about. But I’m not describing any of those phones. I’m talking about upcoming BlackBerry (s rimm) 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?
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