Over a hundred people gathered in the Millennium Broadway Hotel in Midtown Manhattan this Tuesday as RIM brought its BlackBerry 10 Jam Tour to New York. The tour, which was making its seventh stop (out of a scheduled 23), was designed to acquaint developers with the new BlackBerry 10 (due out later this year) so as to help them in their goals of creating useful applications for BlackBerry users. As RIM VP Martyn Mallick said (and as the proceedings confirmed), RIM is committed to developers, which ultimately leads to being committed to end users.
Coming out as committed to its developers and end users was a shrewd move by RIM, as various speakers were clearly aware of the negative public perception which certainly helped cause its recent stock dive. (RIM’s stock value of 10.33 is less than half of what it was a year ago.)
Mallick even took the interesting angle of bringing up myths about Blackberry development so as to debunk them – his counter-arguments were convincing, but it was extremely telling that at this gathering of BlackBerry app developers an RIM VP had to convince the developers that developing for BlackBerry is neither very confusing nor a shrinking field. Somewhat similarly defensive sentiments were expressed by Gary Klasset who said that the BB 10 was RIM’s opportunity to correct its mistakes and build and extend on its past experiences.
While there may have been something of a thread of re-branding sewn in different speeches, it was hardly the theme of the morning. The theme, perhaps, was the user-friendliness of both the new BlackBerry 10 and its app development.
The user-friendliness of the product was demonstrated by showing off some of its really cool features. Supreme among these (and the precipitator of the greatest round of applause of the morning) was the ability to roll back in time a portion of a picture in which different people had themselves readied at different moments. Another compelling feature showed was the touch screen keyboard which anticipates the user’s next words (i.e. suggesting words like “tomorrow” and “later” after you’ve typed in “Let’s meet”). This feature seemed to be both helpful and easy to use. Simpler but important things like a user interface with much fewer buttons than previous models (allowing greater room for content) and what seemed to be an incredibly easy flow from inbox to email to attachment were also demonstrated.
The ease of development for the new BlackBerry 10 will be real, as RIM has already set up developer sites to help its app-builders construct their apps. Ease of use is also, of course, an inherent benefit of BlackBerry 10’s support of development in C++, Adobe Air, Android Runtime as well other SDKs.
The buzzwords of the morning session were clearly “Flow, Connect and Extend.” “Flow” is the goal of the BlackBerry 10 – to seamlessly integrate the user experience with other devices and life as a whole. “Connect,” on a more basic level, is what essentially all mobile devices are for – connectivity. BlackBerry 10’s social media integration as well as its incredibly popular BBM (56 million active users) are designed to help its users connect and interact with other Blackberry users as well as users of other devices. “Extend” represents the integration with other facets of life – beyond the smartphone.
Before the lunch break, various developers pitched their ideas to the whole audience in what were referred to as “lightning pitches.” I was personally interested in an app that one gentleman created which, utilizing GPS signals, would sound an alarm at a pre-determined distance from a train stop to prevent over-sleeping. (I’m not sure if this app is really geared for the drowsy or the intoxicated.) The other interesting pitched apps included two stock apps (one which researched the prices of stocks at given times, the other which would tell you what, say, a 100-year-old $50 investment in Coca-Cola would be worth today) as well as apps for photo-lovers and even the segment of app-users which is attracted to horticulture.
All in all, the event was informative and exciting, displaying an array of awesome features on the stunning new BlackBerry 10 device as well as providing important information for the enrichment of developers. As RIM’s video introduction stated at the beginning of the event “The waiting is the hardest part!”