In advance of an Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) event, anyone with a website takes the time to pontificate about the smallest of details — the camera, the color of the case, and most importantly, what network it will run on.
That’s not the case with Research In Motion’s planned BlackBerry news conference today. The pundits have been quiet for the most part, even though what the smartphone company announces today is crucial to the company’s survival. In this fast-past business, where Android has become a dominant force in just two years and iPhone is stealing away marketshare, RIM (NSDQ: RIMM) must evolve to maintain its lead.
So, did it accomplish that today?
The tagline for the new OS says a lot about how much innovation has gone into the device: “Less an evolutionary leap, more like a triple axel.” In other words, it’s better, but not so different. Investors are unsure what to make of it. In trading this morning, the stock was volatile, trading down at times or up as high as 1 percent.
RIM unveiled the BlackBerry Torch 9800, its first smartphone running the all-new BlackBerry 6 software, which comes with a touchscreen and slide-out keyboard. The phone will cost $200 with a two-year service agreement, and be available only on AT&T’s network starting Aug. 12.
In evaluating the Torch, it will be important to see how well the hardware and software works together. RIM, like Apple, handles both components, while Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) and Google (NSDQ: GOOG) focuses on the software, and partners with handset makers for the hardware. Microsoft will come out with its new OS later this year, and unlike RIM has decided to start fresh with its OS, instead of evolving its older line of products. Mike Lazaridis, RIM’s president and co-CEO, said in a release: “With a new user interface, new browser and new handset design, the highly anticipated BlackBerry Torch and BlackBerry 6 deliver integrated and uncompromising capabilities for consumers and business professionals.”
One of the big features of the new OS is how it handles applications. Many developers have complained how difficult it is to create applications for the platform. To resolve this issue, most apps will be compatible with the new OS. But RIM has also developed a Java-based developer kit that will allow developers to make applications more easily. As part of the new tools, developers will have access to more than 40 new APIs. The Torch will be the first to support carrier billing and to have the App World pre-installed.
Another new feature of the phone is the WebKit-based browser, which replaces the old browser on BlackBerry that was never good at rendering websites. The browser will allow for multiple tabs for accessing sites simultaneously and offers pinch to zoom for easy navigation.