RIM's BlackBerry 10 takes a lot of faith

Former mobile giant is positioning its new platform as a comeback vehicle, but does it pack the features?

RIM shows off its virtual keyboard at BlackBerry World.
RIM shows off its virtual keyboard at BlackBerry World. Brian Bennett/CNET

Research In Motion's BlackBerry World confab has a familiar ring to it: an introduction of new platform that will represent a comeback for the company.

The challenge for RIM watchers is mustering up the energy to believe in the company. The BlackBerry 10 platform is strong. And QNX operating system may be the best mobile platform few use (unless you just love RIM's PlayBook tablet).

Don't get me wrong. I want to believe in RIM. I want to get excited. I hope RIM makes it. I really don't want a mobile duopoly with Apple's iOS and Android.

But if RIM's going to be that elusive No. 3 mobile platform -- Windows Phone doesn't seem to be stepping up to the plate yet -- I need something more to go on than a virtual keyboard.

As CNET's Maggie Reardon noted , RIM CEO Thorsten Heins was jazzed about the company's virtual keypad. RIM also handed out a developer handset to stoke the BlackBerry 10 platform and entice programmers to create apps.

Reardon wrote:

Heins was tight-lipped about specifics, but he hinted that the first devices will likely come with virtual keyboards instead of the physical QWERTY keypads that many loyal BlackBerry fans have come to know and love. He showed off the new virtual keypad and said that it sums up the purpose of BlackBerry 10, which is to make communicating easier and faster. And he said that includes making typing even faster and easier to use.

Really? Better typing and an intelligent autocorrect is the best you can come up with?

Forgive the cynicism, but RIM has some hero platform or phone almost every spring that's supposed to restore the BlackBerry to its glory days.

To wit:

  • May 2012: RIM tells us the BlackBerry 10 platform has developers stoked. RIM launches the platform, but devices won't arrive to later.
  • May 2011: RIM rolls out BlackBerry Balance, a new Facebook App, video chat for the PlayBook and plans to manage multiple devices in the enterprise.
  • April 2010: RIM introduces a new BlackBerry Bold, Pearl 3G and a mobile voice system for Wi-Fi. The PlayBook launched in March.
  • April 2009: Storm rolls out globally with its clickable touchscreen. RIM touts partnership with SAP. BlackBerry App World launches.
  • October 2008: RIM's Storm launches on Verizon Wireless. The Storm was RIM's iPhone killer at the time.

We know how most of those efforts turned out.

RIM's biggest challenge is not only keeping its base enthusiastic, but getting other developers wound up. RIM will support Android apps, but it's fuzzy whether BlackBerry 10 will be locked and loaded with software.

If RIM can't rally developers, it will have another PlayBook on its hands. A tablet with a nice OS that can only do a handful of things.

Hopefully, RIM can make me a believer. But I need something more than a virtual keyboard.

About the author

    Larry Dignan is editor in chief of ZDNet and editorial director of CNET's TechRepublic. He has covered the technology and financial-services industries since 1995.

     

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