Does the BlackBerry London spell promise for RIM?

Taylor Martin
 from Concord, NC
Published: November 14, 2011

Research In Motion's most recent history has been ... lackluster, to say the least. Stock prices have been plummeting since January and hit a seven-year low for the Waterloo-based company just last month. Likewise, smartphone market share in the US has dipped into the single-digits. Shareholders and investors are up in arms over RIM's failure to change and re-enter the smartphone race, and have called for an executive structure overhaul. After the shareholder's annual meeting, where a vote to determine the future of co-CEOs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis was supposed to take place, the pair of CEOs were given one last chance to turn things around for the company that has been spiraling out of control as of late.

So what's the plan? What do Balsillie and Lazaridis have up their sleeves that will "leapfrog the competition" and launch RIM back into the running for the best smartphone?

Enter BBX and the BlackBerry London.

BBX, in short, is far from new or breathtaking. The software is nice and fluid, there's no question about that; proof of this can be found in its next of kin, PlayBook OS. Both BBX and PlayBook OS are QNX-based and share similarities in the interface department. Admittedly, this software refresher is something BlackBerry handsets have needed and deserved for a long time now. And it will be a welcomed change for all of the remaining BlackBerry fans out there. But as I mentioned before, there is nothing particularly new or differentiating about it. It brings nothing new to the table and without the aid of Android Player, app selection is still sparse.

Efforts on the hardware front, on the other hand, seem promising. Until now, what these next-gen BlackBerrys would look like has been a complete mystery. Will RIM conform and give up their prized keyboards to the dismay of loyalists? Can they offer comparable specs and design to the competition?

If we're to believe rumors, the answer to both of those questions is yes. Earlier this evening, Mr. Topolsky himself of The Verge revealed what may be the first BBX device, the BlackBerry London. His word was later corroborated by a tipster in talks with BGR. This appears to be a pretty solid lead, as the design is eerily reminiscent of the questionable PorsheBerry from last month. This is the first recent BlackBerry that is even remotely differentiable and, dare I say ... sexy. Sure, some have compared the design to that of Microsoft's Zune line and others related it to Star Trek or a DeLorean, like the P'9881. But this device, the BlackBerry London, is about as industrial as possible and extremely sleek. There are no buttons to clutter the face and the hard edges give it an air of masculinity. Even on the inside, this thing is packing some heat: a 1.5GHz TI OMAP dual-core processor, 8-megapixel rear camera, 2-megapixel front shooter, 1GB RAM and 16GB built-in storage. The two important parts that remain in question are the display and battery capacity.

So. Is RIM finally on the track to recovery? I would like to think so, but unfortunately, no. They aren't ... yet.

The London seems to be a pretty sweet device. And if RIM can bring some of their lofty future plans to fruition, they may have something to build upon and could potentially leapfrog the competition as Balsillie seems to think they will. But RIM's enemy is time and they will be watching many days, weeks and months roll by before this thing ever hits the market. The rumored release of the London is scheduled for sometime in Q3 2012.

By that time, who knows what phones will be like. Samsung and Nokia are funding huge R&D efforts in flexible displays and devices. HTC and ASUS are dabbling on Tegra 3 quad-core (penta-core, really) processors. A year is a long time in the mobile market, far too long to be betting on a single device to turn your company around. Just look at where we were a year ago compared to today. By Q3 2012, the London will be outdated and long-forgotten by any potentially interested Android or iPhone fans. At that point RIM will do one of two things: postpone the London even further and update it accordingly or continue their perpetual launching of outdated devices. Either way, this thing is already dead if RIM can't manage to bump the release to Q2 at the latest.

Personally, I already want a BlackBerry London. As a long-time BlackBerry fan, it's essentially what I've been waiting virtually forever for, what I hoped the original Storm would be. But I have ADD to the nth degree, and in light of newer, shinier, flashier things, I will lose almost interest by next year. The device seems promising for RIM, though. Fearless CrackBerry leader, Kevin Michaluk asked his minions, "What do you think of the look of design of the BlackBerry London BBX phone?" Currently, 2,957 people have chimed in and 43 percent love the design, 33.6 are okay with it and only 23.3 percent dislike it. It all depends on how badly RIM wants back into this race. The second half of 2012 isn't going to cut it for most, unfortunately.

Image via The Verge