Is BlackBerry 10 too little too late?

Taylor Martin
 from Concord, NC
Published: January 30, 2013

BlackBerry Z10, BlackBerry Q10 official

All eyes have been on Research In Motion all month long, waiting, wishing, hoping that the once mobile giant can turn things around. The Waterloo-based handset and software maker has worked through some serious turbulence over the last few years. And today, RIM took the stage to announce its latest work, the software and hardware meant to bring BlackBerry back into the mainstream, to turn the company around and to, hopefully, turn the market on its head.

In case you haven't looked at the Internet today (or for the last six months or so), today's big announcement is BlackBerry 10. It goes without saying that BlackBerry 10 is vital to Research In Motion. It's a make or break update that can either save a major company or slingshot them into the dark ages.

Over the last year, RIM has teased its new software at developer summits and hardware information and images have leaked left and right leading up to the event.

Just moments ago, RIM CEO Thorsten Heins took stage to put the rumors to rest and make all BlackBerry 10 information official.

Just before counting up to the BlackBerry 10 unveil, Heins announced a big change for Research In Motion, one that should have happened a very long time ago. Research In Motion is no more. One name, one brand. Research In Motion is now simply BlackBerry. And it makes perfect sense. For some time now, RIM has dealt almost exclusively with BlackBerry. It's the company's one main product and it's what RIM is known for. In fact, few people (outside this industry) know that BlackBerry was not actually the name of the company.

Now there is no more confusion. BlackBerry makes BlackBerry. Okay, maybe there is some confusion.

Following that surprise, Heins announced the BlackBerry Z10 and the BlackBerry Q10, a full-touchscreen device and full-QWERTY device, respectively. Surprise! They look exactly like the leaked images, which is great. They're just enough classic BlackBerry design and just enough modern design to make it a seemingly great mashup of hardware.

The Z10, which is what most interested buyers will be eyeing, has a 4.2-inch display with 356 pixels per inch, which by my math amounts to 1,280 by 768 pixels. Unfortunately, no other specifications for either device were unveiled. But I'm not sure that's an important factor here. Hardware is variable. It's the software that truly matters today.

Vivek Bhardwaj entered the stage shortly after the Heins unveiled the two new devices to show off BlackBerry 10. Bhardwaj demoed BlackBerry Flow, BlackBerry Hub, BlackBerry Keyboard, BlackBerry Balance, BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) with video calling and Screen Share, BlackBerry Remember and other various features. Bhardwaj also showed off the camera software we've seen before, which BlackBerry is now calling Time Shift. There is a built-in picture editor.

The big gambit here is BlackBerry Flow, the ability to navigate the OS, fly between applications and services without having to back out to the home screen and select an application. This is something that is a fairly stark contrast from other operating systems. It appears very fluid and fast and is not unlike the navigation in Ubuntu Phone OS.

When can you pick up your BlackBerry 10 device? You can get one on AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint very soon – likely in March. Pre-registraion for some will begin today. For our Canadian friends, it will begin selling February 5. Fantastic! Through all of this, it seems BlackBerry learned how to launch a new platform and smartphone from the best, something even top manufacturers in the world have yet to learn.

Being a huge BlackBerry fan from the 2005 on, I have been waiting for BlackBerry 10 with bated breath for what feels like forever. And the closer this event came, the more excited I saw others get, too. The Z10 is the BlackBerry everyone was hoping the Storm would be, only four years later.

But in those four years, it's clear Research In Motion (old habits die hard) BlackBerry has been hard at work. QNX on the BlackBerry PlayBook was a hit with existing BlackBerry users. And so BlackBerry 10 will be. I wouldn't be surprised if this new software is enough to bring defectors back into the BlackBerry loop. The question now is: how much of an impact will it have on the current market?

I have been looking to move away from iOS for months now. The software is aging poorly and I am in dire need of something new, anything new. As a BlackBerry fan deep down, it's impossible for me to not get extremely excited over these announcements.

As always, however, I have reservations. BlackBerry is definitely committed making this new platform a success. But I feel it may be too little too late. It looks great, it looks fluid and BlackBerry is devoted to bringing a solid level devlopment to its platform. But the ecosystem is paltry in comparison to Google's or Apple's. And Windows Phone is also full steam ahead. Despite a slow start, Microsoft is commited to making Windows Phone a success and it has the means to do so.

But why is BlackBerry 10 too little too late? It's not that the Z10 or Q10 aren't going to be great smartphones. I have no doubt they will be. But it has taken the company more than four years to bring BlackBerry up to speed with the competition. Quickly browsing through the BlackBerry Z10 review by The Verge's Joshua Topolsky, he confirmed my greatest fear. BlackBerry 10 brings nothing truly new to the table, only a consolidated brand, a few negligible features and only somewhat compelling hardware.

Given another year, where will BlackBerry be? Will they be struggling to keep up … again? Will the company be making headway? Those are largely unanswered questions that will play a major part in the company's success. We must also consider that BlackBerry may not have a major stake in the U.S. market. But overseas, its reach is much greater and these other markets may be BlackBerry's saving grace.

I have to say, despite some pause, I definitely feel drawn to take a trip down memory lane and see what this new BlackBerry 10 fuss is about. The Z10 looks great – a tad small for my taste, but svelte. I miss the universal inbox, now called Hub, and a few small features, such as the notification customizations. I'm not sure if any of this is enough to keep me on board long-term. But I have to give it a try before I write it off completely.

What do you think about BlackBerry 10, ladies and gents? Is it compelling? Too little too late? Does it warrant a try from you? Or will you stick to your current platform?

Products mentioned