We often hear rumblings about Research In Motion (RIM) potentially licensing its BlackBerry 10 OS to other manufacturers. In a recent interview, RIM CEO Thorsten Heins flat out said that his company is looking into this option, which would provide an additional revenue stream and allow BlackBerry to compete on a larger scale.
Of course, if RIM does eventually go this route, it won’t stop manufacturing its own BlackBerry devices. “We will not abandon the subscriber base,” said Heins. “You could think about us building a reference system, and then basically licensing that reference design, have others build the hardware around it – either it’s a BlackBerry or it’s something else being built on the BlackBerry platform.”
The challenge, of course, would be convincing other manufacturers to get on board, not to mention overcoming the recent wave of negativity surrounding the BlackBerry brand. RIM hopes to improve things with its BlackBerry 10 OS, but the Waterloo-based company was recently forced to delay it until early 2013. Could RIM succeed in licensing its OS? Only time will tell.
RIM’s first quarter fiscal 2012 results are in, and it’s not looking good at all. The Waterloo-based company has announced that it is delaying BlackBerry 10, originally announced in May at BlackBerry World and scheduled for release this fall, until the first quarter of 2013. That’s the first quarter of the calendar year, mind you, not RIM’s fiscal calendar. The company also announced a GAAP loss of over $500 million, revenue of $2.8 billion (down 33% from last quarter), and “restructuring efforts” that will lay off 5,000 employees.
Of course, RIM’s statement attempts to downplay this potentially disastrous news by touting BlackBerry smartphone sales of 7.8 million units and PlayBook tablet sales figures at a much smaller 260,000. The company is also playing up its 23-country World Tour BlackBerry Jam developer sessions, but finding developers isn’t RIM’s biggest problem. BlackBery 10 was supposed to help save the company from its downward spiral, but missing the fall 2012 launch window could have a very negative effect.
“RIM’s development teams are relentlessly focused on ensuring the quality and reliability of the platform and I will not compromise the product by delivering it before it is ready,” stated RIM President and CEO Thorsten Heins. ”I am confident that the first BlackBerry 10 smartphones will provide a ground-breaking next generation smartphone user experience.” That’s all well and good, and normally we’d advocate waiting for a better and more polished OS than rushing it out the door, but can RIM survive that long?
Update: The news just keeps getting worse. AllThingsD’s Ina Fried is now reporting that the first BlackBerry 10 devices will be touch-only. Device models with RIM’s hallmark physical keyboard won’t be released until after the OS launches.
We’ve been waiting for what seems like forever, and now we have our first legitimate preview of BB10 from RIM. Today, RIM announced the BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha device and that it will be giving one to every developer who attends BlackBerry 10 Jam, currently taking place in Orlando, FL. RIM stated repeatedly that this is not a final product—just a developer tool to build interest and content. That said, the developers are liking what they see, and I’m liking the hints of what is to come.
The phone features a 4.2-inch screen with 1280 x 768 pixels, 1GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage, HSPA+, Bluetooth, WiFi, Micro HDMI, and Micro USB. No word on the processor, and not even a hint as to pricing or release date—this is seriously nothing more than a developer’s device. While most of the features are average, the screen is decidedly above average, with a couple dozen more horizontal pixels, excellent viewing angles, and overall awesomeness. Assuming that the screen isn’t degraded in the final models, and that the processor comes out well in the end, RIM may have something here.
“BlackBerry 10 builds upon the core values and exceptional user experiences that have attracted more than 77 million BlackBerry customers around the world today,” said Alec Saunders, Vice President, Developer Relations and Ecosystems Development.
The past week was a big one for cloud storage services. Microsoft released a major update to SkyDrive, adding support for desktop sync and premium storage tiers, Dropbox updated its service, and Google finally took the wraps off of Google Drive. The three platforms share many similarities, so which one should you choose?
There are numerous factors that go into choosing a cloud storage service, including compatibility, integration with existing services, pricing (when applicable), maximum available storage, and–most important for smartphone users–platform availability. Plus, each service, particularly SkyDrive and Google Drive, offers additional benefits for its parent company’s platform of choice. Let’s take a closer look.
First, the fire control: RIM is not leaving the consumer sector—at least not entirely, and not yet. It is, however, rethinking many parts of its business, three executives resigned, and fourth quarter numbers? Not so good. It was a very painful report and investor call, but it has a few highlights.
The biggest bright spot out of Thursday’s call is the fact that RIM finally looks ready to do whatever is necessary. “It is now very clear to me that substantial change is what RIM needs,” said Heins. There was hardly an option that wasn’t mentioned—even selling the company wasn’t rejected outright, but it “is not the main direction we are pursuing right now.” “This company needs to learn to partner,” Heins said. “We can’t do everything ourselves, but we can do what we are good at.”
The least you need to know about the call—which lasted for nearly an hour—is that RIM will be making some major partnerships in the near future, possibly including contracted media app developers, OS licensing, and hardware licensing/outsourcing. RIM will also be offering a new line of heavily subsidized low-end BlackBerry 7 phones, and will be shifting its focus back on the enterprise sector. Note that this is not the same as leaving the private sector
RIM’s BlackBerry devices once commanded a drug-like influence over its adopters, mostly thanks to its once ultra-geeky feel. BlackBerry 7 is starting to bring some of that sexy back, with a few updates here and there that actually sound like something we may want to use again. With the announcement of the addition of Iris ID biometric NFC credentials, RIM has gained some serious cool points.
Iris ID biometric NFC credentials say you? If that’s not a complicated mouthful of technical jargon, I don’t know what it. Basically, Iris—a now-independent company that spun off of LG in the US—makes iris scanners for companies to use for various things, such as for time cards and door locks. Sometimes it’s an actual iris scanner at each checkpoint, but unfortunately this does not mean that your BlackBerry 9900/9930 or BlackBerry Curve 9350/9360 will suddenly double as a 007 eye scanner.
What it does mean is that if your employer uses Iris ID’s iCAM7000, you can store your biometric signature—read: ultra-detailed picture of your eyeballs—as a NFC tag in your NFC-enabled BlackBerry 7 device. You can then use your BlackBerry as you would a swipe-able credential card, making for one less thing to carry around. Best of all, this technology will likely cost you very little, though it may cost your employer a pretty penny—but we’re probably all ok with that. Hit the jump for the full press release.
For the first time in a long time, we’ve heard about good news for RIM two days running. RIM’s stock closed up a massive 6.91% today, jumping up $0.93 to $14.38 per share. While yesterday’s China Unicom announcement was good news, it hardly warrants a 6.91% jump. Rather, rumors are fueling this jump, with some investors whispering about a possible $1.5 billion investment by Samsung.
This would be a fantastic short-term boost to the beleaguered RIM, with murky long-term ramifications. Samsung will certainly not be buying out RIM for any dollar amount—the Canadian government has stated in no uncertain terms that a sale of RIM itself is not on the table. RIM needs money anywhere it can get it short-term, but what does Samsung see in an investment deal?
Perhaps Samsung sees BlackBerry 10. Thorsten Heins—RIM’s new CEO as of late January—did state upon his promotion that he was open to considering licensing agreements. And Samsung has made it clearly known that it is not pleased with Google’s acquisition of Motorola Mobility, a move that it sees as threatening its security and investment in Android. So possibly rather than an altruistic Samsung investment, there is a licensing agreement in the works.
However, this too has its major pros and cons. Samsung giving RIM money in any form is good for the short-term, but Samsung is clearly RIM’s superior when it comes to handset manufacturing—the world’s superior, really. So any long term agreement may just put RIM out of its own business. And if open-source Android is risky for Samsung, what about locked-down BlackBerry 10? There are a lot of holes in these rumors, but RIM doesn’t need them to hold water, just stock prices.
[CNN Money | Barron's via SlashGear]
China Unicom, who is the second-largest of China’s three state-owned mobile carriers, has announced the availability of RIM’s BlackBerry Internet Service on its network. This move comes after the launching of RIM’s Enterprise Solution on China Unicom’s network last year.
This is an excellent sign for RIM—who has been losing customers hand-over-fist in the US—as this move will allow China Unicom’s nearly 200 million subscribers to “take advantage of the leading BlackBerry solution to manage their personal email, messaging and social communications. They will also enjoy access to a wide range of mobile business and lifestyle applications available on BlackBerry App World™, the official app store for BlackBerry smartphones.”
In essence, this means that BlackBerry owners in China can now use their BlackBerrys as BlackBerrys, instead of just regular phones—who does that anymore anyway? This service allows for a greater range of options, and means China Unicom’s customers will no longer be shackled by their employer’s BlackBerry Enterprise Server contract.
Instead, customers can now access POP3 and IMAP email services with push notifications. Also included is an integrated web browser, and of course the previously mentioned App World. These services are all things other international users on many carriers take for granted, and while it is certainly annoying to have taken this long, it means that not everyone has given up on BlackBerry.
[RIM via BlackBerry Empire]
While the debate over Google+’s solvency and relevancy rages on, so does Google. Just under a week ago, Google+ added support for 16 new languages, bringing the total to 60. And now Google has reworked the Google+ mobile site, bringing navigation functionality from the native Android app to your mobile browser.
The highlight of this update is Google+’s new navigation stratagem. When visiting plus.google.com, you now can swipe between your Circles stream, the public “What’s Hot” stream, and the public “Nearby” stream. The swiping takes a bit of getting used to in the default Android browser, at least it is for lazy folks like me who tend to swipe on a diagonal instead of perfectly horizontal.
While certainly a welcome update, there is still no way to upload photos—let alone use Google+’s automatic uploads feature—and you cannot customize which streams you see on your homepage. This makes the browser app something to be used by a buddy who wants to check his or her feeds, but certainly is not fit to be used as your primary daily access point. The desktop version—which is accessible via your mobile device, albeit a bit awkwardly—or a native app are still your best bets for actually interacting on Google+.
This update is focused on Android, BlackBerry 7, and iOS users according to Google. It isn’t entirely clear how well—if at all—it will perform on other smartphone platforms. This does rather seem like a snub directed at Microsoft, but what else is new? So in closing, this is a welcome update that does what it promises, but is one that I personally do not ever expect to use.
[Google via The Verge]
RIM has updated three popular instant messaging apps for BlackBerry devices, namely Google Talk, Windows Live Messenger (WLM), and Yahoo! Messenger. Normally a large updating such as this would be accompanied by a press release, a support post, a change log, or even a note etched onto a piece of bark and stuffed into a bottle.
Unfortunately, none of the above actions were taken by RIM, so we are left scratching our heads wondering why the sudden mass-update. If I were to venture a guess, it would be that this is security related, and RIM is trying to keep another screw-up on the down-low.
The only thing all three of the apps require is BlackBerry OS version 4.5 or higher, and all three are supported by a whole host of BlackBerry smartphones, ranging from the BlackBerry 8100 to the BlackBerry 9981. If you’re unfamiliar with these apps, they are not text-messaging replacements like GO SMS or Google Voice for Android, but instead are same-platform-only instant messaging apps. Fortunately all three have broad dispersion, so you can be chatting with your buddy on their PC or Android from your BlackBerry. Hit up the relevant source links to update or download anew.
[Google Talk | WLM | Yahoo! Messenger via BlackBerry Empire]