New BlackBerry OS 6 Preview Focuses on Rich Media

Research in Motion has posted another blog update with screenshots of its forthcoming BlackBerry OS 6, this time emphasizing something the BlackBerry is not known for supporting: rich-media content consumption.

RIM (NASDAQ: RIMM) has said it would ship the OS this quarter, and the Twitter hashtag #BB6iscoming seems to tease that it's coming soon. The company has given out previews of the forthcoming operating system before.

In its latest blog update, RIM showcases media-oriented features in BlackBerry 6 including music album art discovery, photos, podcasting and YouTube integration, as well as a few non-media highlights.

It's not exactly something the BlackBerry, so dominant among corporate smartphones, is known for, but with its user base in consumer rapidly growing, and the pressure from the iPhone, this is a necessity, according to IDC analyst Will Stofega.

"You can't have basic stuff like voice and e-mail. It has to be this mass media consumption device. It doesn’t mean they are giving up on the enterprise business, but they are doing lots of other things to help drive growth," said Stofega, research director for mobile devices at IDC.

The OS 6 looks to have a more sophisticated music player than prior versions, boasting album cover art and a cover flow carousel to scroll through a user's collection. The media player supports searching by album or artist.

The photo organizer is also getting a big overhaul. Pictures can now be grouped by event or by date. Users will be able to view a slideshow of pictures with transitions between photos. Phones with touchscreen capabilities will have pinch-to-zoom support, and it is easier to share or delete photos.

Video support is also getting overhauled, with video previews in a thumbnail preview. Video can be played in different sizes, like original size or full screen, and with YouTube integration, video can be uploaded with a single click.

Camera controls are also getting a major enhancement. The camera will now support autofocus, facial recognition, portrait, landscape and low-light modes, as well as a high-speed mode (called sports mode). These modes come as presets and users can quickly switch between them.

BlackBerry 6 adds a podcasts service so customers can search, subscribe and play audio and video podcasts on their BlackBerry. This service will be preloaded with BlackBerry 6 in North America, so no PC is required to download the podcast.

Stofega said these new features are quite compelling for the staid smartphone. "It's very interesting. They know they have to come out with the right form factor and leave behind the old days and go to the new. It will enable a lot of new things," he told InternetNews.com. "If Apple is enterprise-ready with all its multimedia capabilities, then I think they have to follow suit as well."

Meanwhile, the BlackBerry community is eagerly waiting for a release date for the new mobile operating system as well as a list of which models will run OS 6, but RIM has yet to disclose those details.

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


operating system, Blackberry, RIM, BlackBerry OS, multimedia