I attended my latest demo for BlackBerry 10 this week, and I remain [client access only] impressed by the platform’s features and general look. The highlights include a seemingly smart, learning (Swype-style) keyboard, a compelling and very HTML5-ready browser, the ability to sandbox the device’s personal and professional uses into BYOD-friendly and easily changeable identity modes, as well as a whole new approach to multi-tasking. I also remain equally concerned by its main problem – the fact that it’s not ready, being now scheduled for Q1 2013. But all in all, the bits I like in BB10 are enough to make me give RIM the benefit of doubt and assume that the platform could make an impact upon its release.
As far as I see it, BB10’s biggest selling point will indeed be in multi-tasking, because that is an area it does seem to handle remarkably well, and one that all existing mobile OSes handle remarkably poorly. In BB10’s “Flow” concept there can be up to eight different applications open simultaneously and at least during the demos I have seen the transitions between them happen quite smoothly. I can give my final verdict of course only when the actual products are out and available, but what I’ve seen so far has made me inclined to believe that RIM may not necessarily be playing only catch-up here. Instead it is offering something that is fresh and innovative enough to become a credible alternative.
It isn’t the most complicated of dynamics, after all. If you identify something important that the incumbents do badly, you stand a decent chance to shake them up. And that chance is even better if the said incumbents are becoming too complacent and risk-averse to reinvent themselves.
And believe me, mobile OSes could do with a modest dose of re-invention. For instance, the most laughable comment I’ve heard being used to defend the heavily incremental nature of the iPhone 5 has been that Apple didn’t want to reform the iPhone any further because it has already “reached perfection” and all “changes for change’s sake” would only make it worse. I don’t buy such blatant apologism one single bit. It's not the end of history, and there is no last man.
If you can’t think of anything that could improve the iPhone then my own unscientific assessment is that you’re displaying severe lack of imagination or extraordinary (and yes, here comes the F-word) fanboy-style patience. The hardware may still be very state-of-art, but when it comes to iOS 6 then in my books there’s no denying that Apple is stagnating. If it won’t start revamping its OS within the next year or so it will be dangerously exposed to bolder rivals, which by that time could well include RIM.