RIM Offers More Details on BlackBerry OS 6.0 Features

Research In Motion (RIM) continues parceling out details about the upcoming features in its BlackBerry OS 6 software, but the enterprise smartphone player is still shying away from a full-fledged, hands-on look at the closely watched release -- not to mention sharing details of a precise ship date.

BlackBerry OS 6 will be an important release for RIM (NASDAQ: RIMM). Long the leader in the business smartphone space, BlackBerry is now being squeezed by Apple's popular iPhone and a growing bevy of Android-powered rivals -- both of which boast devices that feature slick hardware and easy-to-use operating systems.

While the BlackBerry is seen as lagging in cutting-edge features, it's still widely viewed as a reliable workhorse. Now, however, Research In Motion is hoping to build on its reputation while adding new, more modern features.

It detailed several of those enhancements in a new, 98-second video preview. Still, RIM continues to avoid mentioning when the new OS might become available; the closest it's come to giving a ship date for the new BlackBerry OS is that it's coming sometime this quarter.

At the very least, however, the new video shows brief examples of a number of features -- some wholly new, some enhanced versions of existing features. They include universal search throughout the phone, an enhanced media interface for music playback, social network feeds, an RSS feed, BlackBerry Messenger, an instant messenger, pinch to zoom and a richer Web browser. The browser is an all-new WebKit-based browser built on technology acquired from Torch Mobile.

However, all of the features in the video are shown as animations, not actually live components running on a BlackBerry device.

The video also does not show off the new OS running on a specific device -- a disappointment for those looking for hints as to whether talk of new handsets to accompany the OS might prove true. Additionally, the video shows OS 6 running only as a full touchscreen operating system, even though the majority of RIM's phones are all operated by a small trackball, save for its Storm touchscreen line.

As a result, the new look at the OS makes it hard to determine whether RIM has something solid on its hands, according to Michael Gartenberg, an analyst and partner at market research and advisory firm The Altimeter Group.

"What we saw was canned demo," he told InternetNews.com. "Anyone can do anything in a canned demo. It's hard to see what's essentially the OS equivalent of a music video and say how competitive it is or isn't. At some point, RIM will have to start showing it off on devices for people to get a sense of it. People need to see the real thing. What we're seeing is essentially mock ups."

Gartenberg said RIM has a tendency not to do big sneak peeks at upcoming products. Instead, it does short teasers like this video and then ships the product. Because of this, "we have no idea what kind of shape it's in. Until you get a sense of what hands-on is like, put it through its paces, it's hard to say good, bad or indifferent," Gartenberg said.

"It looks like they have the right ideas," he added. "How well they implement them into a finished product remains to be seen."

It's a development that the entire industry is watching, with RIM, once the only real player in the enterprise smartphone market, now besieged by upstarts like Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) and Android.

"There's no doubt RIM will deliver on the core experience. The question is, is that enough? As the mass market has embraced these phones, they are looking to do a lot more than just e-mail, and that's the areas where RIM needs to catch up," Gartenberg said.


Andy Patrizio is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.



operating system, Android, Blackberry, iPhone, RIM