RIM unveils new BlackBerry operating system

Research In Motion showed the world BBX, the next-generation operating system for its smartphones and tablets, at an annual conference for software developers in San Francisco.
Mike Lazaridis, co-CEO of Research in Motion delivers the keynote address at the Blackberry DevCon Americas conference in San Francisco on Tuesday. (Eric Risberg/Associated Press)

Research In Motion showed the world BBX, the next-generation operating system for its smartphones and tablets, at an annual conference for software developers in San Francisco.

RIM co-chief executive officer Mike Lazaridis said the new platform — a combination of BlackBerry and QNX software — will power all of RIM’s future BlackBerry smartphones and PlayBook tablets.

"We're bringing the power of HTML5 to the BlackBerry platform," said Lazaridis, who also highlighted the open-source nature of the software, intended to woo developers by making it easier to create and collaborate on applications.


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The company promised that the new platform would deliver advanced graphics, deep integration between apps, always-on "push" services, and premium security features.

BBX will give RIM's future smartphones the ability to run Android software applications, such as games, business and medical apps. The Android operating system, developed by Google Inc. is used on a variety of phones, smartphones and tablets made by numerous manufacturers.

"We're sensitive to what our developers want," said Lazardis, who took to the stage alongside various developers to explain the new operating system's features with its PlayBook tablet. The graphics were showcased with a heavy emphasis on an improved gaming experience.

"At DevCon today, we're giving developers the tools they need to build richer applications,"said Lazaridis.

With its own more powerful BBX operating system, Lazaridis said users will be able to seamlessly perform multiple tasks at the same time, such as watching a video in high-definition while writing emails.

RIM shares rose three per cent in Toronto on Tuesday, closing at $23.59. 

The meeting was billed as an opportunity for BlackBerry application developers to discuss the latest technologies with RIM experts, and to sharpen strategies that will help the besieged company rebound. The company must convince app developers that it is worth their time and effort to develop apps for BlackBerry's smartphones and tablets.

The new smartphones are  expected to be more like mobile computers when they're launched early next year.

High-profile flops

The pressure is on the company after RIM's recent global outage — traced to a faulty switch in England — which left millions without service for almost four days.  

The blunder dealt a sizable blow to the company's much-valued BlackBerry, which used to be the envy of the high-tech world, and added pressure on the company already under siege for lagging innovation and falling share price.

RIM was slow off the mark bringing out a tablet to rival Apple's iPad and, when unveiled, the PlayBook got lukewarm reviews. Observers concluded that the tablet seemed like an unfinished product rushed to market.

But in the early hours of the conference Lazaridis insisted that RIM won't ditch its PlayBook tablet, which has been languishing on store shelves and sold fewer than one million units since its debut last April.

"We're absolutely committed to the BlackBerry PlayBook," he said.

Meanwhile, its latest smartphone models, formerly a core competency for RIM, have not matched the initial success of its Curve and Bold models. The BlackBerry Torch, expected to be a game-changer, was also met with a tepid response.

RIM's most recent financial statement was harrowing for investors. In the three months ending Aug. 31, net earnings fell 58 per cent, and several analysts cut their price targets for the company’s shares.

With files from the Associated Press