It could be too late for BlackBerry 10

It's good…but questions remain

It could be too late for BlackBerry 10

RIM is dead, long live BlackBerry – but it faces an almost impossible task to win over smartphone users.

It's fashionable for technology journalists to criticise BlackBerry no matter what it does; actually, any non market-leading company that has the audacity to tell the world it actually can make a success of its new product. Nokia was, and to a degree, still is the master at this trick (LOOK! You can use it with gloves! It's the future!) and there was something almost apologetic about CEO Thorsten Heins taking to the stage to announce something that's already been shown off many times around the world.

The only vague surprise came from the handsets, but even those had been leaked months ago – so we were subjected to slightly awkward asides from Heins while Vivek Bardwaj smoothly showed off a number of features most of the audience had already seen.

But it's important not to be an armchair critic with things like this – let's look at BB10, rather than think about the years of failure to innovate that RIM forced us to endure. It is a new company after all.

Heins

If you lined up all the main mobile operating systems, you'd argue there are four areas of innovation that the others don't have: BlackBerry Hub, Peek, stronger multitasking and Balance.

The Hub is the unified inbox of old, but more visible and easier to access: it allows you to see all your notifications with a 'simple' up and right swipe (which actually can be a little hard to activate each time with accuracy). It's a nifty feature, although one that Android Jelly Bean has eclipsed with even greater info.

But BlackBerry Balance is the area in which the company can build the most differentiation, there's no doubt about that. Bring your own device (BYOD) is becoming enormously popular with staff who were once forced to carry a BlackBerry to get the security their company demanded, and was partly the reason that the company began to fall in the first place as iPhone or Android devices became so strongly requested.

So Balance is the ultimate way to achieve this: all the info and apps you want, and all the safety and security in a separate partition to stop your IT department losing sleep - although many will have to upgrade systems to use it. It's an excellent addition, although Windows Phone offers the full Office suite on the go, which is something that a lot of workers are relishing at the moment.

But… well, that's it, and once you see past that smaller demographic of BYOD-ers you get to the crux of the problem BlackBerry is facing: convincing the person on the street who just wants the best smartphone that a BB is the one for them.

BlackBerry 10

The keys on the Q10 will help. Users still love keys. But the user who might want an iPhone, or might want a Samsung Galaxy because they've heard that's a 'good' phone to have - what would pull them toward BlackBerry? Fancy gestures? Average-looking hardware and specs?

And let's not forget a massively understocked app store compared to the rivals - these are the things that matter to consumers. And the price isn't cheap either, which makes buying a BlackBerry phone another tricky sell.

Speaking to Andrew Bocking, Senior VP Software Product Management for BlackBerry, he gave a very vague sense of the user the company was looking at: "We're building for the very connected, the very socially aware, those that are very communication driven; they're focused on getting things done, they're doers, acters, closers."

You can read between the marketing lines here: BlackBerry is looking for the user who wants an organised life, information on the go, but a decent smartphone experience too, and there's no doubt that with BB10 BlackBerry has delivered on that aim. It's clear to see that the new range is among the best integrated on the market.