The last couple of years have obviously not been kind to Research in Motion, which is why the company has been hoping to generate some much-needed positive buzz by unveiling portions of its upcoming BlackBerry 10 mobile operating system this week.
Before we get into reactions to BlackBerry 10, though, let's take a look at just what RIM is highlighting with its shiny new OS. The two big features to come out of this week's BlackBerry World conference so far have been a new camera system that is capable of "rewinding" photos to seconds before you took them so you can have more choice in which picture you want to keep if your initial snap doesn't turn out right, and a new touch keyboard system that lets users swipe backward to delete whole words and that adapts to users' typing habits in a manner similar to the BlackBerry PlayBook's QNX-based keyboard system.
While these new features are certainly welcome, most tech reporters and bloggers at this week's grand unveiling of BlackBerry 10 have generally reacted by calling the new OS a case of too little, too late. To be sure, many writers had positive impressions of BlackBerry 10's new features, including its new keyboard and camera functionalities, but they mostly doubted that they were enough to make a dent in the market shares of mobile world's two OS powerhouses, iOS and Android. Boy Genius Report's Jonathan Geller best summarized this sentiment by basically noting that RIM at this point needs plastic surgery a lot more than it needs a makeover.
"The parts of BlackBerry 10 demoed are slick -- capturing a series of images and combining different elements from each one before you save a photo seems genuinely incredible," he wrote. "What we saw wasn't truly innovative, though. It wasn't compelling enough, and it's unfortunately too late to try and gain enough traction and support for a third mobile ecosystem."
The Verge's Chris Ziegler was significantly more enthusiastic about the newest BlackBerry 10 features demonstrated today, but similarly thought that RIM didn't deliver enough of a differentiator with its new OS to bust through the current duopoly in the smartphone and tablet industry.
"Prior to [HP's now-defunct mobile operating system] WebOS, I would have been bullish on BlackBerry 10," he said. "Now, though? I'm too jaded - lots of moving parts that RIM needs to get right."
CNET's Marguerite Reardon also made comparisons with the ill-fated WebOS and said that it has become very difficult for an upstart operating system to make a dent in the mobile market where Apple and Google are constantly pumping out new updates and devices that further consolidate their market shares.
"There's no question RIM has a long road ahead of it," she wrote. "Many here were reminded of the failings of other companies that developed slick new software that came out much too late to the market. Palm, which essentially invested the smartphone market with its early Palm Pilots, had lagged behind its competitors for years. ... The WebOS platform, which got rave reviews from the technology press and some consumers ... came much too late."
It wasn't all prognostications of doom for RIM, however, as Gartner analyst Michael Gartenberg said that RIM's initial demo of BlackBerry 10 showed that the company was "still in the game," although he emphasized that RIM needed to ship relatively soon in order to make its mark. And the Verge's Joshua Topolsky said that BlackBerry 10 "looks really promising" although he added the caveat that RIM would "have to deliver serious third-party support." And finally, the NPD Group's Ross Rubin said if RIM could deliver on the promises it showed off in its demonstrations this morning, then the company would truly "have its groove back."
For a company that has faced gloomy prospects over the past couple of years, such words of cautious praise were about the best it could hope for at this time.
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