First impressions of BlackBerry 10: Cautious optimism

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Research In Motion debuted BlackBerry 10 (BB 10), a new version of its mobile device platform on Tuesday at the company’s annual developer event. Through a video demonstration, RIM showed an elegant, fluid, feature-filled touch experience that impresses. BB 10 is definitely its own system, but I see hints of iOS, Android and even Windows Phone in the¬†new Cascades interface; not necessarily a bad thing.

Yet those around the web as well as conference attendees tempered their positive impressions with caution as RIM has lost valuable time and sales momentum to Google Android and Apple iOS devices for the past several years. Simply put, a pretty demo does not a comeback make.

Here’s a look at one short video demo of the new operating system so you can see for yourself, followed by some thoughts on Twitter about the new BlackBerry 10 system:

Jared Newman raises an excellent point as carriers have a major impact on the success of failure of a device: They commit funds to large quantities of handsets in advance with hopes of selling these to customers and earning back the investment over time. If consumer and developer interest for a platform is waning, carriers are likely to spend their money on more popular devices.

Andy’s point on timing for RIM may be the biggest problem RIM faces with BB 10. While BB 10 is impressive looking, most of the experience is trying to achieve parity with currently available platforms. And those competitors are continuing to mature even as RIM prepares to debut BB10 devices this year. Microsoft’s Windows Phone is a perfect example of this situation, debuting in 2010 with most of the same features as iOS and Android.

A platform is only as good as its ecosystem these days; hardware and software alone aren’t enough for success. Topolosky’s point is spot-on in this regard, although RIM trotted out developer after developer to show off BB10 apps and games. RIM isn’t known for a strong ecosystem by comparison to its peers; it turned to Android apps to help supplement native apps on its PlayBook, for example.

It’s not all doom and gloom for RIM, however. The demos have impressed many — including myself — and analyst Michael Gartenberg gives RIM credit for its efforts. The key is to ship BB 10¬†devices as soon as possible because the platform certainly looks viable. Each day without a product, however, adds further strength to iOS and Android; both of which are firmly entrenched in the mobile market today.

I’m not sold yet either, but see hope

RIM’s event continues for the next two days, so I’ll be continuing to watch the developments. My initial thoughts based on what I’ve seen RIM present? Had the company delivered this platform on devices even one year ago, the mobile market might be different today. Instead of a two-horse race between iOS and Android, RIM could have been that third player to compete. As it is now, RIM is simply trying to stay relevent in a market that matured quicker than RIM anticipated.

Still, I cautiously share some optimism on BB 10. The platform is exactly what RIM needed to deliver and looks fantastic. But the company has to convince carriers, developers and content providers that it can still compete. RIM tried to do so with the PlayBook, but ended up offering an incomplete device that marred its comeback. The odds against success may be even worse now, but RIM has proven that it’s not giving up just yet. Step one is complete; step two is to quickly get BB 10 devices in consumer hands.

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