The wait is finally over. Kind of. There are still a few key elements missing, but as it stands right this moment, BlackBerry creator Research In Motion has officially shown off what we should all expect from BlackBerry 10 when it launches later this year. That’s right, CEO of the company Thorsten Heins has pulled the curtain off the new mobile OS, and unsurprisingly it was something not entirely unexpected: we’d seen it in leaks months prior, but this time we got to hear plenty about the new features, and how excited RIM is for this new platform.
And I’m left wanting more. As I write this, the event is actually still going on. There are company CEOs on stage showing off their applications which will be running on the BlackBerry 10-based hardware that launches at some point in the future. We still have no idea what the hardware will look like in the official capacity, but hopefully it’s more inspired and original than what we’re seeing out of the software.
Yes, BlackBerry 10 does look different from what we’ve all come to expect from the BlackBerry OS in previous versions. For that, RIM should be applauded. They’ve finally managed to break the monotony, and try something new. Unfortunately, everyone knew that RIM had to try something new to get people to like them again, and as it stands right now it honestly doesn’t look like it will be enough.
BlackBerry 10 looks like a rehash and (not so) subtle mimicry of other platforms, which just leads me to wonder: why would anyone choose BlackBerry 10 over what it is obviously inspired from?
I’m going to give you two examples, but there are more. By now, now that the demo of BlackBerry 10 itself is over and done with, you’ve seen where the other similar aspects come into play. But first, let’s start with the Cascades UI. It’s something that RIM has hinted at in the past, and it’s a direct creation from The Amazing Tribe, or TAT, which RIM acquired sometime ago. Cascades is a whole new way to use your BlackBerry device, and it does indeed give the aging mobile OS a breath of fresh air.
But, all you have to do is look at it and realize that you could be using the same UI elements in another platform, called Windows Phones. Those colorful blocks and images, along with the text information, is a pretty robust copy of Windows Phone, and by now Microsoft employees in charge of the Windows Phone initiative have to be pretty proud of themselves.
Copying is the best form of flattery, right?
Then HP has to be kicking themselves right now, because it looks like those cards that were so crucial for webOS are still getting some love, even if it isn’t from HP. Now we’ve got RIM’s take on it, which looks to be a natural evolution from what we’ve seen on the BlackBerry PlayBook. RIM is focusing on the ability to “glance” at things on the screen, from notifications to apps to whatever else, and while it looks great in actions, the only thing that I could think about was webOS, and how this just seems like a tip of the hat in that direction.
Okay, one last thing: the keyboard. The BlackBerry name has been synonymous with a great typing experience, but that’s been squarely set on the shoulders of the hardware keyboards that the company develops. The software side of things hasn’t been so warmly accepted. But RIM showed off their new keyboard, which takes plenty of cues from SwiftKey (as does the PlayBook, mind you), and offers up a way to swipe full words so that you don’t have to keep typing them. If you watch the demo video you can see it in action, and am I the only one who thinks the person actually has to slow down to get the sentence put into the phone? I mean, the keyboard looks great, and it’s different, but is it different in a good way?
This is early, still very early, and RIM is going full-bore into the creation of BlackBerry 10. However, I think there are too many cues from other mobile operating systems and that’s not necessarily the direction that RIM should have gone. They needed to take some risks, but I don’t know if people will be excited to use something that they can already get on another platform, right now.
Then again, we’re still waiting to see the hardware, and it may come down to that. As it stands right now, though, I honestly don’t see a compelling reason to wait for BlackBerry 10 when the next Galaxy is right around the corner from Samsung, or the new iPhone from Apple. Or, even, whatever new hardware comes down the pipe featuring the next version of Windows Phone.
What do you think of BlackBerry 10? Excited? Not at all? Let me know.