We spent the past few days at BlackBerry's Jam developer conference in Amsterdam to see just how it's building on the momentum of the Z10 launch. A make-or-break handset, the Z10 (sporting the new BlackBerry 10 OS) impressed us in our review and video review and is a solid start for a company who was on the brink of irrelevance. Here's what we took back from Amsterdam (aside from a bag of delicious syrup waffles)...
Appeal to the masses
BlackBerry isn't "just building stuff for 35-40 year olds any more," Head of Software Portfolio Vivek Bhardwaj explains. The BlackBerry 10 OS is designed for businessmen, teenagers, and everyone in between, without alienating one group or the other. "BlackBerry users, no mater their age, culture or background, have three things in common," says Bhardwaj – hyper-connectivity, multitasking and the desire to get things done." BlackBerry, he believes, does them better than anyone else. Well, he would say that. Let's find out how it's wooing back users from rivals iOS, Android and Windows Phone.
The answer, it seems, is disruption and constant evolution. In the next 12 to 18 months, Rob Orr, BlackBerry's UK Managing Director, told us that all he can see is "masses of opportunity to disrupt the marketplace." Those are some fighting words if we've ever seen them.
The RIM of old was stuck in the past, allowing its rivals to blur past it while its products remained stagnant. When asked about BlackBerry 10 updates, Vivek told us we could expect consistent yearly updates, which was one of the items on our wish list. Whether or not they'll be named after deserts remains to be seen – but continual improvements are a must if BlackBerry 10 is to rival Apple and Google's regular updates to their operating systems. That's particularly important, since BlackBerry 10 is still in its infancy.
Balance for all
One of our biggest praises (and gripes) with BlackBerry 10 in our review was BlackBerry Balance. It's a fantastic feature that lets you separate work from play, but is sadly only available for enterprise users. Could a version of Balance be made available for regular BlackBerry 10 users? "Yes, is the answer," says Rob Orr. "It's something unique and cool in my head that we're working on." He wouldn't flat-out confirm anything, or go into any more detail – but we'd be very surprised if a stripped-down version of Balance doesn't make its way to your BlackBerry sooner rather than later.
Apps, apps, apps
Our review of the Z10 still found it sorely lacking in the apps department. BlackBerry is trying to get more apps on its BlackBerry World store, offering a limited edition red Z10 as an incentive to developers as well as providing tonnes of resources and tools to get people started on the app making process. It's now down to the developers – who will hopefully see potential in the new BlackBerry platform. At the very least, there's the opportunity to port existing Android apps over to BlackBerry 10, as Skype has announced it's planning to do.
RIM needed to change. It needed to evolve. And it has. Its new BB 10 OS and Z10 launch handset show plenty of promise. It's still too early to tell whether BlackBerry's efforts will deliver the reward it's so desperately seeking, but with the QWERTY-toting Q10 set to launch in April, plenty of support for developers to start churning out apps, consistent updates and a promised PlayBook update, BlackBerry has certainly risen from the ashes. Whether or not it will reclaim its former glory however, remains to be seen.