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Gadgets & Home Improvement

More time needed to polish new BlackBerries

Research In Motion CEO Thornston Heins says delaying the release of its new line will only result in a better end product.
The Straits Times - October 3, 2012
By: Oo Gin Lee
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More time needed to polish new BlackBerries Mr Heins outlines the uses of BlackBerry Balance, which lets business users run secured apps and unsecured apps on a single device, at the BlackBerry Jam 2012 conference in San Jose, California, last week. -- PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Facing mounting losses and bleeding market share, BlackBerry maker Research In Motion (RIM) is fighting for its survival.

It reported a net loss of US$234 million (S$287 million) for the second quarter, compared with a profit of US$329 million over the same period last year. Once the leader of smartphones for business users, RIM has seen its global share of smartphones spiralling downwards.

At the end of the first quarter last year, 13.6 per cent of the world's smartphones were BlackBerries. At the end of the second quarter this year, it was down to just 4.8 per cent.

The world has moved on to Android phones and iPhones, and the delay of the new BlackBerry 10 (BB10) operating system is not helping the company's cause. It was supposed to have launched by the end of this year but RIM has decided to delay it by another quarter.

Speaking to Digital Life last month, MrThornston Heins, chief executive of RIM, said he was aware of the risks of delay, but said he wanted the new BlackBerries to be "totally polished".

"We have just this one shot and it has to be fantastic," he said.

He added that launching BB10 next year would help the company to "get out of the noise" as its rivals would be launching new devices during the holiday season.

"The carriers (telcos) said they will launch strong with us in the first quarter, even though that means there is one quarter more we have to get through."

The stakes are high and the road ahead is uncertain.

BB10 is based on the new QNX operating system, which means that existing apps running on earlier versions of BlackBerry won't work on it natively. About 35,000 existing apps on its PlayBook tablet - which is based on the same QNX system - will work but that number pales in comparison to the estimated 700,000 and 600,000 apps found in Apple and Google Android systems, respectively.

The good news is that Android apps can also work on BB10 as there will be a virtualised version of Android running on top of BB10, but there is a limitation as only one app can run at a time. The Android apps also need to be submitted to RIM for certification, so they will not automatically work out of the box.

Mr Heins added that the new BB10 will offer a "new user paradigm" which moves away from the apps grid found in Apple and Android phones today and is designed for "hyperconnected multitaskers".

One key feature of the BB10 is what is called BlackBerry Balance, which lets business users run their corporate apps in a secured environment while being able to use unsecured consumer apps on the same device.

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