BlackBerry 10 was discussed at length at RIM's BlackBerry Jam Americas in San Jose on Wednesday, and although the user interface is promised to be sexy and sleek, is that really what consumers are after in a phone? At one point, BlackBerry was the innovator. However those days appear over with Apple and Android in the lead BlackBerry 10 is their chance to regain their place in the spotlight – except that's not likely to happen.
The interface sounds great, with a more efficient way to navigate through the operating system, like treating the user to updates without having to find the app in the sea of menus. But is that what the user really cares about?
Windows Phone Wannabe
If this remind you of the Windows 7 phone, it should. Microsoft bragged about how pretty its interface would be, and how “delightful” and “wonderfully personal” it would be. However, consumers balked amid a slew of bugs, as well as reports that later in the year, the WP7 devices would not be upgraded to Windows 8.
RIM came off at BlackBerry Jam as a follower of their line of thinking, touting the beauty they saw in the new BlackBerry 10, trying their hardest all the while to change the skeptical minds of the press. Two hours were spent discussing the interface's new features.
The new navigation has been dubbed “Flow,” and was designed to help you seamlessly and effortlessly navigate from element to element. “Peek” allows you to easily get to the main operating system features just by a simple swipe upwards on the touch screen, displaying thumbnails of open apps. Swipe right, and a universal inbox appears containing messages and appointments.
RIM's vice president for user experience, Don Lindsey, spoke at BlackBerry Jam and compared the experience of using the interface to glancing at your watch. You periodically glance at your watch without giving it a second thought, and he feels Peek offers this same experience. Gone is the home button and task-switching interface, leaving the BlackBerry 10 user more time to be productive. Great in theory, but is the clean interface all RIM has to offer with this new device? If so, they need to rethink their strategy.
Those who have tested the interface don't feel it is useful at all, saying that it's tough to navigate right out of the box. If it takes time to become accustomed to using the phone, will that attract the older crowd? Probably not. And it isn't just the testers that are having trouble: it appeared RIM demonstraters at BlackBerry Jam were struggling just as much, observed swiping up a few times just to show off these features, even RIM's vice president of platform.
Developers told CNET's Casey Newton they were getting closer to getting it right during a press conference, and let's hope that's the case. To promote this magical interface yet not deliver as described seems a little ridiculous. And where's cloud integration? One would expect this useful service on a device made by the company that introduced the first cloud communication system, BlackBerry Messenger. What the cloud can do has certainly come a long way since Messenger, with just about anything you can create, whether document, browser bookmark, or image, stored for access anywhere, anytime.
RIM can only hope that they have a trick up their sleeve, some guarded feature that will wow the consumers. Otherwise, the BlackBerry crowd may slim significantly.