Building off the momentum of an international product launch in New York that featured not only a corporate re-branding and the naming of a Grammy-award winning artist as its new global creative director, one had to wade through a lot of flash and sizzle to get down to what was really important—the announcement of the first two handsets that would incorporate BlackBerry (formerly Research In Motion)’s latest OS–BB10.
BlackBerry hasn’t had much good news lately, as a seemingly endless series of product delays pushed out its latest handsets from an April 2012 release all the way to Jan. 30. In that time, competitors such as Apple and Samsung have continued to erode whatever market share BlackBerry had left. Many analysts wondered if it was “too little, too late” for the Canadian smartphone manufacturer.
It didn’t help matters that BlackBerry’s last product launch was an understated one for the Playbook LTE and was met with a lukewarm response from the consumer base. Many are hoping that the staggered launch of the BlackBerry Z10 (launching first in the U.K. on Feb, 1, in Canada on Feb. 5 and in mid-March for the U.S. and other countries) won’t encounter the same issues that the last high-profile BlackBerry launch (the original RIM BlackBerry Playbook) met when it was released.
The back of the BlackBerry Z10 communications board (click on image to enlarge and expand).
The BlackBerry Z10 is the first BlackBerry handset to feature a dual-core processor. Notable is the inclusion of 2 gigabytes (GB) of internal RAM. From a “bells and whistles” perspective, the Z10 claims to feature a display of higher resolution than Apple’s “Retina” technology while also incorporating an 8-megapixel auto-focus camera with backside illumination (BSI) and a 2-megapixel camera for use in video conferencing. It also features BlackBerry’s answer to Apple’s Facetime, called BBM Video.
The Z10 is LTE-enabled and features the usual gamut of sensors found in the modern smartphone (MEMS accelerometers, gyroscopes, etc.) BlackBerry isn’t selling the Z10, however, on its technical merits but on the fluidity of the new BB10 operating system. How well BB10 resonates with consumers remains to be seen. However, taking a look inside at the components of the BlackBerry Z10 will give us a good idea as to how technologically comparable it is to the current market leaders, the Apple iPhone 5 and the Samsung Galaxy S3.
As an engineer I can appreciate the clean construction design of the Z10. Comparatively, the Samsung Galaxy N3 is a total disaster - requiring special tools to disassemble it. Also, I love the QNX OS that the Z10 uses - I've been a QNX user/developer for 30 years, and hands-down, it is the best (and most reliable) commercial real-time embedded OS available. Android and Linux? Not hard real-time, which may explain their occasional "glitches" - I have a Nexus One given me by Google several years ago at the Linux Collaboration Summit, and it was my main phone for 2 years. These days I am using a Nokia Lumia 900, which all things considered, is a nice bit of gear. Of course, it is a company-issued phone... :-) When I am ready to purchase a new personal phone, the BB will be high on my list of candidates!
I just bought a Z10. It is not bad and lives up to expectations -- except the Z10 does NOT operate under the Blackberry Internet Service (BIS) in North America (nor I believe in Europe). This is something that Blackberry appears to have kept silent. It means that small business operators such as myself, who have relied on Blackberry's well respected and proven email filtering and control, have been abandoned by Blackberry. In effect, without this differentiation Blackberry has become just another "me too" smartphone maker pushing bells and whistles instead of solid and useful communications functionality that Blackberry users have become highly dependent on. With no apparent substitute for BIS, I might as well join the Android or iPhone crowd where I can at least have more apps and models to choose from -- or get my old Blackberry Torch fired up again.
I miss my blackberry. I've been using a Droid X and tried an iPhone 5. Because of company security concerns, I have to use additional software on these other phones (Good technology) and it isn't as convenient as BB. I also store password hints and equations in my contact lists. Outlook and BB allow be to store a series of letters and numbers in phone fields. When I transfer these to Droid or iPhone, I loose all the letters and now my PW equations are gone! Had I known this was to happen, I might have placed the equations in the "notes" field, but how was I to know. Now I have way too many entries to fix. If BB is there when my current contract is up, I may well return to them. It just seems to be a better business solution.
I might have missed it, but don't see any Broadcom (BRCM) design wins. Interesting, could take this two ways:
1) Blackberry sees BRCM too much in Apple and Android phones, so where possible Blackberry tries to use "other" suppliers to keep them loyal.
2) BRCM knows its mobile market so doesn't see the gain from a focus on Blackberry, yet.
My vote is #2.
In the very competitive consumer technology sector, where timing is everything, I hope BB is not shooting themselves in the foot by delaying US roll-out of their new/late offering until March 2013!
Dare I ask; haven't smartphones already become a commodity, like the proverbial microwave ovens and laser pointers?
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.