Friday, September 30, 2011

4 reasons why QNX will put RIM back on the map

This is a guest post by Joe Pawlikowski, editor of 

It hasn't been an easy 18 months for the BlackBerry brand. In that time they nixed some releases and rushed others, leading to an uninspiring 2010 line of devices. Even the highly marketed BlackBerry Torch didn't fare terribly well. It's not a stretch to think that Research In Motion is headed down the path of a former competitor, Palm. Yet it's not all doom and gloom for the Waterloo crew.

In 2011 RIM has already started to rebuild its reputation. While their recent launch of BlackBerry 7 smartphones went down with little fanfare, they are still solid devices that represent the true potential of the current BlackBerry line. That is, these are probably the best devices RIM can possibly create on its existing platform. Thankfully for them, they have a new line of smartphones that could be ready for early 2012.

Based on the QNX operating system that runs the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet, the new line of BlackBerry smartphones has the potential to change the conversation about the much-maligned brand. Here are four reasons that the QNX operating system will put RIM back on the map.

1. Best of BlackBerry Still Included

One of the biggest issues with the BlackBerry PlayBook was not the tablet itself. In fact, most early reviews praised the hardware and the operating system. The largest complaint centered on the lack of native functions. BlackBerry is known for its messaging platform, and those apps -- messages, calendar, and contacts -- were conspicuously absent from the PlayBook at first. That's not a permanent absence, though, and by October the PlayBook will have all of these features and more. That means the first run of QNX smartphones will have all of those native functions ready to go out of the box.

Essentially RIM is laying its best features over a more modern and powerful operating system. That has basically been the dream since that fateful day in 2007 when the iPhone came out. RIM has been on a downslide since then, and while they'll never catch Apple in terms of consumer smartphone sales they can still play a role in the smartphone industry. Their messaging system combined with a modern OS could make them a viable alternative for people whose primary use for a smartphone still centers on email.

Also included: the BlackBerry keyboard. It's not a guarantee, but chances are slim that RIM would just ditch the keyboard that helped make it famous. If we're to learn from past RIM strategies, we can assume that they'll release multiple smartphones running QNX, and at least one of them will have a physical keyboard. That's a must for some people, and a big reason why some users have been reluctant to switch from BlackBerry to iPhone and Android.

2. High-End Hardware

Until a month ago, high-end hardware and RIM were antithetical. For years RIM delivered underpowered devices. According to their executives, this was a deliberate move that put the focus on battery life. RIM thought that their customers didn't care about processor speed, but they knew that a short battery life span was not acceptable. It took them until 2011 to realize that both can come in the same package.

The BlackBerry 7 line of smartphones contains numerous hardware upgrades. The processors come in at 1.2GHz, and the screens have all been upgraded -- the flagship Bold model has a screen resolution of 640x480 pixels, which is by far the highest resolution BlackBerry to date. It also contains more RAM than previous models, which helps it run even faster. These devices really are beacons of speed, even if the software is a bit underwhelming.

With the QNX smartphones they'll use high-end hardware, making for RIM's best smartphone yet. For instance, co-CEO Mike Lazaridis said that the QNX smartphones would require dual-core processors (saying it was one reason that RIM has not yet released such a device). That could mean for even faster speeds, which is necessary today for a high-end smartphone.

3. The Need for Competition

Apple puts out the standard bearer of the smartphone industry. It's iconic, and it works. As a single platform on a single handset, it likely won't be topped. Android is the attractive alternative. It's available in many makes and models, but the experience is similar across them. The more tech-savvy crowd might prefer Android due to customization options, which run from the OS down through the handsets themselves.

Is that all we're going to see from the smartphone market in the future, though? It would be a shame if these two platforms were the only real options for people seeking smartphones. In fact, there's still one area that neither of these platforms covers particularly well: email and enterprise. Android and iPhone aren't bad at these, per se, but there is plenty of room for improvement. This is where the BlackBerry can find its place.

The market might need a third alternative, and if that's the case then RIM could use its current position to its advantage. That is, while Windows Phone is starting to make inroads with carriers, they still don't have the reach or the recognition of RIM. in fact, the old Windows Mobile platform is worse in every way than the BlackBerry platform, and so Microsoft has a lot longer way to go in terms of reputation recovery. RIM could position itself as a solid No. 3 as early as 2012.

4. The QNX Experience

The QNX operating system, as represented on the BlackBerry PlayBook, is a highly enjoyable one. While a smartphone would benefit from a physical button or two, the PlayBook works just fine without one. It's all based on swipes gestures, both on- and off-screen. That makes navigation rather intuitive.

Really, the entire reason for writing this post is the QNX platform. It's a true forward-thinking operating system that can continue to grow, much in the same way that Android and iOS have grown in their years on the market. It performs essential smartphone tasks, such as multitasking, with ease.

This leads to the absolute, No. 1 reason that QNX will put RIM back on the map: it simply has to. If not, RIM is done as a smartphone manufacturer. Their business is on the line, and it appears that they have a product worth of brand saving. It will take more than a great device, as most smartphone manufacturers have learned. But RIM is well positioned right now, and should take advantage. Their QNX smartphones will put them right back in the smartphone game. It's only a shame that they got bumped from it in the first place.

About the Author
Joe Pawlikowski is the editor of BBGeeks, a site that helps BlackBerry users get the most out of their devices.