As we are winding down at the 10th BlackBerry World in Orlando, one question kept popping up: will RIM and BlackBerry survive in this rapidly changing mobile market? You ask different people you get different answers, but one strong sentiment from all parties here is that this year is a crucial year for RIM and the BlackBerry Platform. The 6,000 attendees, that include BlackBerry developers, enterprise CIOs, IT specialists, corporate buyers, industry analysts and perhaps the large press group that the BlackBerry World has ever seen, certainly generate lots of energy and excitement. You can feel the vibe. But what are we excited about?
The pre-conference buzz on the Internet predicted at least 3 new BlackBerry smartphones and a new OS version that's so drastically different from the current OS 6 that RIM has to call it OS 7. But what RIM actually introduced was one new smartphone model in two variants, the BlackBerry Bold 9900/9930, and a new OS that's faster with new apps and enhancement that most end users won't see a huge difference from the current OS. So was the pre-conference buzz "controlled leaks" or "managed hype"? We don't know. But what we do know is that RIM has opened a new chapter of its development philosophy and that is "we are having a party and everyone is invited". During his keynote, the CEO of RIM, Mr. Mike Lazaridis, shared the stage with his competitor, Microsoft (maker of Windows Phones) Steve Ballmer and his new friend Adobe as well as several development partners. And everyone at the RIM development department seems very excited about new technologies and new partners, and the QNX and TAT guys, acquired by RIM for both their technologies and talents, are the superstars here and at RIM.
Behind the scenes, RIM folks face a different market and different demands from its customers than folks from the Android and iOS camps. RIM has to take care of its core customers: the enterprise and corporate IT who guard their corporate data like it's their own children. The fact the BlackBerry PlayBook needs a BlackBerry smartphone to bridge PIM data wasn't because RIM wanted to make our lives more difficult, but because the CIOs don't want that data leak out when the tablets get lost or stolen. You can always replace hardware, but once your sensitive data is gone, your IT people's jobs are at jeopardy. That leads to the unsung hero in the BlackBerry OS 7: the BlackBerry Balance. This piece of the OS 7 allows enterprise IT to separate your personal data from their precious corporate data, so you can share anything personal in email, Facebook, Twitter, or whatever; but if the IT brass says wipe out all the corporate data on your smartphone, they can do that easily yet leave your personal data intact.
The new Bold 9900/9930 is what enterprise has been waiting for to upgrade their smartphone and they will buy tons of them, as many corporate buyers and IT decision makers are indicating here at the conference. And let's not forget the overseas markets where data is precious and very limited. The Europeans love the light footprints the BlackBerry leaves on their carriers, which means smaller data bills. Android and iOS just can't compete with BlackBerry on this. But the big buzz at the show is around something that's already out there: the BlackBerry PlayBook. Mr. Lazaridis confessed at his keynote: now I finally get to make something personal and I believe this is the age of personal computing. And you get a sense that he and his 17.5K employees who are working on the PlayBook are geniunely having fun with this. And that's a great sign for RIM. Everyone from RIM and the folks from its partners like Adobe, Unity, etc. are assuring us that the awesome apps we see on the PlayBook like the Air apps is only the beginning. And that's a great news! This is the first BlackBerry World where the BlackBerry Smartphone isn't the center of the attention. So if you haven't checked out the PlayBook tablet, read our in-depth review and watch our video review: http://www.mobiletechreview.com/phones/BlackBerry-PlayBook-Review.htm and then go to your local Staples store and play with it. You have to experience it to get its awesomeness.
Now we get why this is a crucial year for RIM: they must invite partners to make the best tablets for both enterprise and consumers, and they have to refine the smartphones to keep their enterprise customers happy while attract new phone users to the platform which isn't an easy thing to do. RIM and its believers think they can achieve all by including not only its core developers but also new talents in HTML 5, Java and more game developers! They are proud of the new Java engines they acquired and enhanced, and the web browser on the PlayBook is fast and smooth. The web browser on the BlackBerry Bold 9900/9930 shown at the conference is still in beta, but it's already faster than anything we've seen on previous BlackBerry smartphones. If RIM has achieved one thing at the BlackBerry World is sending a message: we are here and we are moving forward!
If you've checked out our review of the BlackBerry PlayBook you already know that we like it. RIM promises that more apps, not just junk apps, but killer apps are coming. And that will make the PlayBook a very strong player in the tablet space (along with PIM apps that don't require Bridge).