I have been the biggest defender of RIM over the last couple of years. They went with a lot more touch friendly OS with OS6 as well as picking up a competitive webkit browser. They introduced a powerful tablet with a brand new operating system that will eventually power the phones of the future. They gave us a slew of BlackBerry 7 devices with huge spec upgrades, bringing BlackBerry back from a huge spec deficit. Sounds pretty good right?
Let’s back it up. RIM released the PlayBook without native email support, without an sdk, and without BBM. They did introduce Bridge to get all of those minus the sdk. Bridge however only works for people who also had a BlackBerry phone. It did allow a pretty cool feature of sharing a data connection between the two at no extra cost. This alone became my reason for keeping it. Considering only a small segment of potential PlayBook buyers also had BlackBerry phones, and bridge was not accurately reported early on by the blogs led to poor adoption rates. RIM said it’ll be able to play Java based BBOS apps, it’ll be able to have native BBM, e-mail, contacts, it’ll be able to run Android apps. All this stuff was demoed at BlackBerry World in May. All of this will be available by the end of Summer. Piecing together some interviews, excluding the idiotic remark by Jim Balsille saying “60 days” was the believed schedule, most gathered that September was the likely month.
Also shown off at BlackBerry World, the BlackBerry Bold 9900. The first glimpse at BlackBerry 7, which had only recently been rebranded from 6.1. It would take all summer before this phone, along with his later announced Torch cousins, would be released in August. It was almost 10 months since the last BlackBerry (the 9780) had been released. There wasn’t much to complain about then; unless you were on AT&T who is releasing their 9900 “soon”, according to one of their twitter accounts.
The new phones are in hand, which most know is a stop-gap to QNX powered phones. So what progress has been made on the PlayBook front since BlackBerry World? After all, PlayBook development works out to QNX phones development so this is an important indicator of progress made toward these next generation devices. The PlayBook was updated to include proprietary video chat. It also got an update to flash player and a software power button. Still none of that awesome stuff shown off at BlackBerry World. Still no auto correct/suggestions either. We are left with a great portable web browser/ media player. Things get behind schedule, let’s not panic yet.
Fast forward to DevCon. We are told all of those things are coming in a big “2.0″ update. That update will hit soon after DevCon. Jim Balsillie makes another idiotic statement saying that with the stuff they are showing off at DevCon they are going to “leapfrog” the competition. DevCon happens and the keynote comes across a poorly organized mess. Their biggest announcement is pretty much right at the kick off with BBX, and other than Alec Saunders (You can get my thoughts on him HERE).
It’s pretty jumbled. OS 2.0, which is being used in every tech demo of the night isn’t even mentioned until one of the guys from Adobe lets it slip that’s it’s going to be in beta for developers that day. The keynote doesn’t lead to prototype BBX phones, as many had expected by previous statements by the CO-CEOs. So how about that 2.0 beta? You get a slightly redesigned home screen experience with folders, and the Android runtime. PIM services were nowhere to be found. Also gone without a trace was the BlackBerry Java Player.
Later confirmed to be scrubbed all together by RIM. It was a beta for developers so not including PIM services wasnt especially worrying. With developers now actively porting Android apps to App World there would probably be a couple of quick betas and a release. They did say soon after DevCon right? In a blog post today on the BlackBerry website David J Smith (SVP BlackBerry PlayBook) said that “We expect to deliver the new BlackBerry PlayBook OS to customers in February 2012″. He also stated that it would lack native BBM at that time as well. This is seriously troublesome that none of the features promised by the end of summer even make it by the end of this year. For a tablet struggling in its current state, and price points, this could very well be it. (At least this iteration.) The sad part is we haven’t heard any news on the supposed 4G version, and the 10 inch was scrapped shortly after the 7 inch was launched.
The only bar we have to measure progress on the BBX phones of the future is the PlayBook. So far I’d say it fails to deliver, and fails to progress. Continued missed “deadlines’ do not inspire hope. CO-CEOs who are trying to prove the worth of their unique roles to the Board of Directors keep floundering in the public spotlight. All of this and I didn’t even mention that tiny outage the other week that no one noticed. On the flip side, RIM continues to make great acquisitions that address weaknesses of its’ platform, Torch, QNX, TAT, and NewBay just to name a few. Alec Saunders seems to be riding the developer relations ship. RIM has said the first BBX phone will be released Q1 2012. Given performance in 2011, I doubt this will happen.
Get it together RIM! I never wish any platform to the grave. Less platforms equals less innovation. With 2011 pretty much in the bag, 2012 is make or break time for the platform many have already declared dead and gone. Getting BBX out in a complete form in a timely manner should be priority number one. Don’t make promises that you cant keep!
~Signed an angry BlackBerry fan boy.