RIM Intros BlackBerry 10 and it is surprisingly CompellingFor the first time in years, RIM feels like a company developing products worth caring about. Today the company introduced Blackberry 10, the next generation platform powering its new smartphones and the first to run a QNX operating system. And amazingly, the platform doesn’t seem to suck.
The interface feels a lot like RIM crossed the best parts of Android with the best parts of Microsoft's clean and elegant Windows Phone 7. The company repeatedly emphasized the ‘glanceable’ design of the operating system, which largely means that the company has implemented a system like live tiles. It also has clean, sharp lines and uniform textures, giving it a sharply modern and minimalist look that seems, to me, even cleaner than Apple’s offerings.
At the same time, however, there is a top notification pane much like what’s on Android. It seems Android’s notification design has become all but a standard, with almost every smartphone platform implementing it.
Back to that glanceable design, RIM has implemented a slick app switching system whereby you swipe from the side. However RIM has done something that other platforms could only dream of: swiping from the side gives you a live preview of the app on the other side, so you can see exactly what is going on. This is more useful than it might seem. It’s a bit like having a phone with window management ala OSX or Windows than a smartphone platform.
But perhaps my favorite feature of BlackBerry 10 is the keyboard. RIM opted for a traditional keyboard rather than a swyping one, something that normally I wouldn’t be happy with. But the way that the company handles autocomplete suggestions is brilliant. See, as you type, the operating system will populate a list of words that you are likely typing out. Then it will place each over the next letter you would type to complete that word. then just swipe up and the word is completed. It’s a clever design and one that you really need to see in action to appreciate (there’s a video below, for those who are interested).
RIM is also heavily advertising its developer friendliness, something that it apparently finally figured out it needed. At the conference today RIM spent quite a bit of time talking up its tools and showcasing partners developing for the platform. Apparently the tools are slick enough that one game development firm was able to port a complex 3D game to BlackBerry 10 in a single day.
Overall, RIM has managed the impossible: they have gotten me excited about a Blackberry device for the first time in recent memory. If they can gather a dedicated team of developers for the platform, they might just stand a chance. And I really hope they do; competition will speed up the rate of smartphone innovation.