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RIM Drops More Hints About PlayBook 2.0, BlackBerry 10

January 10, 2012

BlackBerry PlayBook

LAS VEGAS – BlackBerry maker RIM is trying to drum up app-developer support at CES, talking up the smartphone platform's popularity among its 50 million users, demonstrating a new version of its PlayBook tablet, OS and dropping some hints about its upcoming BB10 phones—among them that, yes, there will be models with QWERTY keyboards.

"When it comes to communications, we have a dominant offering that drives a great level of engagement and user satisfaction," said Marty Mallick, a senior director of business development at RIM. "We have 50 million BlackBerry Messenger users. Seventy percent of them use BBM every single day. We have APIs for apps that can take advantage of that engagement."

RIM gets slammed for having fewer applications in its store than Apple and Google do, but Mallick says the company is getting short shrift. RIM doesn't put out an official count of how many apps are in App World, but it's generally understood to be tens of thousands as compared to its major competitors' hundreds of thousands. Wikipedia claims the store has about 50,000 apps.

"BlackBerry is generating more downloads per app than other app stores … and developers are making more money on their apps on BlackBerry than on some of the competing platforms out there," he said. "If you get a million downloads but 90% of the people don't open those apps a second time, that's not as exciting as getting downloads where the user opens it every day."

Showing Off PlayBook 2.0

RIM is in the middle of a painful OS transition. While it's popular in countries such as Indonesia and India, the North American tech elite are largely ignoring the company's current BlackBerry 7 OS and looking towards its upcoming BlackBerry 10, a complete rewrite which RIM just punted down the road to late 2012.

The firm's PlayBook tablet, released last April, hasn't seen great success either, hindered in part by incomplete software lacking key features like native e-mail and calendar apps. RIM says BlackBerry Tablet OS 2.0 will roll out next month and fix many of those failings, and that the BB10 platform will incorporate all of the tablet's features and more.

"You'll be able to tie in data from users in your email, within your calendar, with Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, pulling together your contacts into a more socially integrated experience," Mallick said. "And PlayBook 2.0 can be looked at as a stepping stone towards BB10. It starts to introduce new UI elements," he said.

Other new PlayBook 2.0 features include a video rental store and the ability to use a BlackBerry handheld as a 'remote control' for a PlayBook.

"You can use your BlackBerry keyboard to type on your PlayBook, and you can use your BlackBerry as a mouse," he said. If you're looking at an article or Web page on a BlackBerry, you can choose "open on PlayBook" to look at the file on a bigger screen, he said.

Where Is BB10?

We won't see BlackBerry 10 at CES, but app developers who write for the PlayBook can be assured that their apps will run well on BB10 devices, Mallick said. He gave some light hints about those devices: while they may not have the same screen resolution as the PlayBook, they'll have the same aspect ratio, and "there will be touch BB10 devices as well as QWERTY BB10 devices. Both of those will exist."

The most recent Internet rumors, from Boy Genius Report, say RIM only plans to introduce a single, touch-screen-only device initially.

Developers looking towards BB10 "can just write for a PlayBook," Mallick said. "The toolkit, emulators, and environment we provide for the PlayBook will be consistent with the environment we provide for BB10." That will help BB10 launch with many existing apps right out of the gate.

More BB10 details will come at the company's European developers' convention in mid-February, and yet more at Mobile World Congress in late February, Mallick said.

We'll have a hands-on with the new features in BlackBerry Tablet OS 2.0 – hopefully including native email support – on Wednesday morning.




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