BlackBerry 10: Pretty looks, but is that enough?

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Leaked images of Research In Motion’s new BlackBerry 10 software show much similarity to the user interface of Apple iOS and Google Android. Crackberry shares some of the screenshots and, if legitimate, indicate that BlackBerry is finally moving towards a more touch-friendly platform that supports home-screen widgets.

In light of fading market share for BlackBerry devices, the updated platform is a rare positive sign for RIM. The company simply hasn’t been able to mount a challenge to the growing number of consumers — and enterprises, for that matter — adopting iOS and Android smartphones.

A challenge will still remain, however, depending on what RIM brings to handsets with its new software, expected in the second half of 2010 2012. Gaining user interface parity with competitors is just one part of the solution. The other is the ecosystem, where RIM is still far behind. Even Microsoft’s Windows Phone platform, which is still trying to build momentum and sales, now has more applications than BlackBerry’s App World, according to Distimo.

The number of applications shouldn’t be the sole measuring stick, of course; the quality of apps and the number of top-tier titles are very much part of the equation. So too are the number of media offerings, such as video content, e-books and music. RIM is still struggling this year based on my experiences browsing App World as well as from discussions with developers. With a larger target audience, programmers are focusing on iOS and Android. A pretty new user interface that’s been around on other devices for the past four to five years isn’t likely to change that.

At this point, unless RIM can offer some key differentiating features that people want, the new BlackBerry 10 is more likely to keep current BlackBerry owners on the platform and not attract many new customers. The time for a modern user interface, and the sales it would have brought, has come and gone.

Image credit: CrackBerry

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