Research In Motion (RIM) President and CEO Thorsten Heins unveiled a developer prototype for BlackBerry 10 (Dev Alpha) during the opening keynote at BlackBerry World today.
BlackBerry World is a developer conference and today’s keynote from Heins, which was broadcast online from the company’s website, sounded an awful lot like a pep rally aimed at energizing a community that has been waiting a long time, through multiple delays for the QNX-based BlackBerry 10 operating system.
Heins treated the audience to a quick preview of Dev Alpha, stressing what sounded like a new marketing message, which leaned heavy on the phrase “BlackBerry 10 is all about being agile and nimble to help users get things done.”
A big part of the new platform’s agility is dependent upon real-time multi-tasking, which keeps all applications running all the time. The result was what looked like a fairly seamless, gesture-based UI, similar to that featured on the BlackBerry PlayBook. Specifically, Heins showed off a notifications system that allows users to go from their notifications directly into emails, messages and conversations across applications.
Given that BlackBerry users have traditionally been heavy email users and subsequently lovers of the physical keyboard, RIM has implemented an “adaptive keyboard” that learns a user’s typing style and adapts to it for better accuracy. Heins also showed off a camera technology that allows users to scroll back in time to adjust a photo if a subject has closed their eyes, or if they’ve missed a particular moment.
Today’s demonstration was just a snippet of things to come, but release of a developer prototype was a major milestone for RIM. After multiple delays in releasing BlackBerry 10, RIM has seen a shakeup among its executive ranks, including the retirement of co-CEO Jim Balsillie, as well as flagging support from investors.
Heins stressed that the company was not showcasing the entire build of BlackBerry 10, adding that the hardware handed out to every developer at the show was also a generic prototype and not the finished product. The Alpha Dev devices did not have a physical keyboard.
The toolkit for developers includes the BlackBerry 10 Native SDK with Cascades, which allows developers to create graphically rich, high performance native applications in C/C++ or Qt. The Native SDK for BlackBerry 10 has a set of APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) that give developers access to core device features and a range of BlackBerry application services, such as Push and Payment services. Cascades is a native application development toolset that allows developers to more easily build graphics-heavy applications without having to write graphics code.
RIM’s annual developer conference is important for the company, as it looks to garner an applications catalog that can compete with the likes of Apple and Android. RIM currently boasts just over 70,000 apps for Blackberry smartphones and 15,000 for the PlayBook tablet. The Apple App store features more than 200,000 apps for iPads and about 500,000 for iPhones.
RIM currently controls 6.7 percent of the global smartphone market, down from 13.6 percent in the year-ago quarter, according to research released today from IDC.
Shares of RIM were down 3 percent to $13.70 in early trading. BlackBerry World 2012 runs from May 1-3, in Orlando, Fla.