BlackBerry had a pretty busy day at its Live conference in Orlando. The Canadian manufacturer announced the new Q5 smartphone, introduced the updated BlackBerry 10.1 operating system, released Enterprise Service 10 version 10.1 and detailed plans to bring BBM to Android and iOS.
My colleague Larry Seltzer, who was at the BlackBerry Live conference, briefly went through a couple of the announcements, but let's take a more in-depth look at what the new products bring to the table.
The BlackBerry Q5 is designed to slot right under the BlackBerry Q10 in the company's QWERTY lineup. The smartphone features a physical keyboard, a 3.1-inch touchscreen display and aims for "youthful fans that are passionate, confident and bold, and it makes it easy for them to have fun, create, share and stay connected", says BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins.
The BlackBerry Q5 comes with the BlackBerry 10 operating system, which now touts more than 100,000 apps in the store, and allows users to take advantage of features such as BlackBerry Hub, BBM, Time Shift and Story Maker, among others.
The Canadian manufacturer announced that BlackBerry 10.1 will be available for the BlackBerry Z10 smartphone in the upcoming weeks. There are a couple of notable new features here.
The BlackBerry Hub introduces support for PIN to PIN direct messages between BlackBerry smartphones and features improved attachment capability. Users can now customize notifications through ringtones, vibrations and even the LED light.
The company also says that the BlackBerry 10.1 cursor should be both easier to use and more precise in operation. The operating system adds support for HDR mode, a feature already available in other platforms, as well as landscape viewing mode within the calendar app, enhanced red eye reduction in the picture editor as well as other improvements.
BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10 version 10.1
BlackBerry Enterprise Service is designed to allow businesses to manage BlackBerry devices. The latest update brings the software to version 10.1 and introduces a couple of new features and benefits.
Businesses can now restrict BlackBerry 10 smartphones to work environments, which disables them for personal use, through an optional set of extended IT policy controls and settings. IT administrators are able to manage devices running BlackBerry 10 as well as previous iterations of the operating system.
BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10 version 10.1 also brings an improved dashboard designed to make it easier for businesses to view data related to managed devices, phone support via BlackBerry and deployment in a highly available active/passive configuration.
BBM Comes to Android and iOS
Currently available as a BlackBerry-only affair, the Canadian manufacturer announced that BBM will also be available to Android and iOS users this Summer.
"For BlackBerry, messaging and collaboration are inseparable from the mobile experience, and the time is definitely right for BBM to become a multi-platform mobile service", says BlackBerry. "BBM has always been one of the most engaging services for BlackBerry customers, enabling them to easily connect while maintaining a valued level of personal privacy. We’re excited to offer iOS and Android users the possibility to join the BBM community".
BBM will not be a trojan horse, sent by BlackBerry behind enemy lines to bring back its former users (and possibly gain new ones) who have defected to Android and iOS. Instead, the service has to fight off similar offerings available on the platforms that rule the smartphone market today in order to gain some ground.
BlackBerry, however, says that BBM will have a new trick up its sleeve. The service, which touts more than 10 billion messages each day, will feature the BBM Channels "social engagement platform". With it, the company wants to connect users to celebrities, businesses and groups of interest.
Unlike Facebook which released its messaging service after the social network, BlackBerry goes the other way around. Considering that many folks are already using different social networks, BBM Channels appears to be a futile feature at this point.