Today is BlackBerry World, a celebration of all things RIM. Or, more specifically, one thing RIM: BlackBerry 10, the company's last great hope for a much-needed comeback. But did the company trot out enough goodness today to allay fears over its future? Hard to say. And that's maybe the scariest part of all.
There were three tent poles to CEO Thorsten Heins's BB10 presentation: Camera. Keyboard. Flow. All of which looked slick! But also familiar. Old dogs with slightly new tricks. It's hard to see how they'll be enough to win over developers, much less the people who actually pay for their phones.
Look, says RIM, at our new predictive text. And it does look very smooth and useful and good in the brief glimpse that we got this morning. But so does Swype. So does Windows Phone. And now that the famed BlackBerry physical keyboard is gone—and it did have to go—it's ultimately just another touchscreen with letters on it.
There's multitasking, yes. The word BlackBerry's marketing team has settled on for it is flow. Again, looks delightful, and certainly useful for the business persons drawn to BlackBerry in the first place. But keeping all of those applications running all the time require far better specs than RIM has invested in its marquee hardware lately. To say nothing of the hit the battery will take when those apps start to include video streaming and games.
Then there's that camera, maybe the only truly breakout BB10 feature so far. Touch anywhere on your screen to snap a pic, then scroll forward and backward in time to capture that one perfect millisecond when no one was blinking. Sounds great. Looks great. But is it enough to make you ditch your iPhone?
RIM's biggest problem, though, is that that's not a question you'll be asking yourself any time soon. The biggest absentee from BlackBerry World isn't any individual feature. It's a phone to put them on. It doesn't matter how good BB10 is if you can't buy it. And as of today, there's no indication that you'll be able to any time soon.
In fact, all we know about RIM's BB10 device plans are from leaked roadmaps and whispers. End of the year? Probably! But while the company insists that it's pushing hard to meet its deadlines, we don't know what those deadlines are. On the one hand, yes, take your time and don't crap out a half-baked OS like you did with PlayBook. On the other? The starting gun went off for this race a long time ago. And you're still stretching behind the blocks.
Camera. Keyboard. Flow. That's RIM's future. But how bright it is depends entirely on when it gets here.