It's been a difficult time for RIM; the company's manifold difficulties have been catalogued extensively both here and and elsewhere. Today, though, relatively new CEO Thorsten Heins will take the BlackBerry World stage to chart RIM's glorious future—or further decline. Let's find out which!
What can we expect today from Heins? More details on BlackBerry 10, certainly. An update on PlayBook, maybe. Filling America's strip malls to the brim with BlackBerry stores? Almost certainly not! The keynote's starting in just a minute, so stick around and keep refreshing.
And we're off! Before we get to BlackBerry's Future, we're starting in with a video montage of people who—guess what?—cannot live without their BlackBerry devices. They will literally die.
9:08 AM: Heins has taken the stage, greeting people and waiting for applauses that are slow to come. He has a delightful accent!
9:09 AM: This is Heins' first BlackBerry World as CEO, although one would imagine he wouldn't want the stakes quite so high for his first time out. "I am here because I believe in the unique value BlackBerry delivers to our customers every single day."
9:11 AM: Defining "The BlackBerry People" now. They're "hyperconnected," which means apparently that they're more likely to hit up social networks and calendars and apps more often than the average bear. Unless they owned a PlayBook during that first year, because there was no calendar and no apps.
9:12 AM: "Is entertainment our key value as BlackBerry?" Goodness, I hope not. And Thorsten confirms that people aren't just hooked on BlackBerry because it's so GOSH-DARNED FUN.
9:13 AM: What BlackBerry people really care about is success, which, ironic! Right? A little? Given the last few rounds of earnings reports?
9:14 AM: "This is the core of BlackBerry. This is the purpose of the company."
9:15 AM: BlackBerry helps people save time, says Heins, which sounds quite a bit Windows Phone-ish in terms of messaging.
9:16 AM: "Behind all that success there is a unique architecture." This. That's the value that BlackBerry really represents. Heins is starting to play up BlackBerry's proprietary servers and messaging and highways and byways, which is really the only place the company can win in a world of iPhones and Androids.
9:17 AM: Here's a cameo for the CEO of Salesforce.com. EDGE OF YOUR SEAT TIME.
9:18 AM: Okay, so that's not entirely fair. Companies like Salesforce.com are where RIM is going to have to make its stand. Get BlackBerry 10 devices into the hands of office drones, and hope that they're well-received enough to leak into the bigger consumer market.
9:21 AM: And now a Cisco senior exec to talk about how the two companies collaborate. Which, see above, except hustling out all of these enterprise folks is making RIM look pretty one-dimensional. It's a good dimension! But one that can also be occupied pretty easily by a Windows Phone device or iPhone.
9:23 AM: Okay, now into the good (better?) stuff: BlackBerry 10. "We figured that if we want to take this to the next level, the next decade of mobile computing, we needed to take a very separate route." Which is to say: No thanks, Android!
9:24 AM: Here it is: BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha device. Everybody in the room will be going home with one. It's like the saddest episode of Oprah you ever saw.
9:26 AM: At any point, do you think Heins suggested he introduce the dev unit with a "you get a phone, and you get a phone, and you get a phone!"
9:28 AM: And here's an actual look at BlackBerry 10 coming up. "We want a user paradigm that is easy and fast. It's all about the flow."
9:30 AM: Showing off "Conversations" now, which is a slick bit of layering that allows for multitasking without abandoning whatever you're working on. It looks slick, but maybe a little crowded.
9:31 AM: Applications stay open all the time, which is a nice trick until your battery's dead before lunch?
9:32 AM: Seriously, though. It's not like other platforms aren't able to do that, they just don't want to make that battery trade-off. We'll see!
9:34 AM: Here's the new keyboard, which looks a bit like a keyboard. You can gesture down to bring up different options (switching from letters to numbers), although there doesn't seem to be any sort of Swype efficiency here.
9:35 AM: RIM is making a very big deal about predictive text now. It's nice that words pop up right above individual letters, but still. It's predictive text. That's been around since Avril Lavigne's seminal debut album 'Let Go.' Longer, even.
9:37 AM: Talking camera now. On the camera, you touch anywhere to take a photo, and you "can go back and forth in time" to capture the perfect moment. Waiting for details on how exactly that works, but in the demo if you take a picture of someone when they're blinking, you can adjust the image to a moment when their eyes are open.
9:39 AM: It's a neat trick! But, again, what kind of battery hit are we talking about?
9:41 AM: Oh god they put BB10 in a car.
9:42 AM: Why did they put BB10 in a car.
9:42 AM: Most connected cars already run QNX, for what it's worth. But seriously why is BB10 in this car right now RIM what are you doing this is not going to help.
9:43 AM: This was one of those moments when Heins had to ask very politely and sadly for applause. There have been more than a handful of those.
9:44 AM: "The entire company is laser-focused on delivering on time and exceeding your expectations." Love lasers, on-time should be doable since you're already a few years behind, expectations would be met by a hot bologna sandwich at this point.
9:45 AM: And here is a very brief video to get you excited about BB10, showing not many features. Mirroring showed up, so that's something! But the fact that we're only getting a glimpse at three features—keyboard, camera, flow—is a little disconcerting.
9:48 AM: And that's a wrap for Thorsten. Parting words? Let's rock and roll this.
The rest of the presentation will be wonkier dev courting, pleas to populate BlackBerry World with all the apps it's been missing. But will the slimmest of sneak peeks get them there? Will a car? We'll know when BlackBerry 10 officially launches. Whenever that might be.