Our meeting with Jeff Holleran, senior director enterprise product management, and Vivek Bhardwaj, head of software portfolio, @RIM’s Manhattan offices this week started off all business and somehow wrapped up talking about mullets… I cannot divulge exactly what was said about mullets and BlackBerry 10 but I can tell you that it is a big part of RIM’s BYOD strategy. Now on to what we discussed:
Right off the bat both Jeff and Vivek seemed very relaxed yet excited to answer our questions and showcase BlackBerry 10. It was awesome to see them so excited about the new platform and product RIM has created. We even had some fun with the BlackBerry 10 time shift camera to get started. Due to RIM’s recent enterprise announcements I asked Jeff how RIM was preparing enterprises for supporting BlackBerry 10 devices at launch. Jeff surprised me by stating that RIM has just started seeding actual production BlackBerry 10 devices to enterprises as of about 10 days ago. He said that RIM is already getting real life feedback from companies and it is overwhelmingly positive. RIM is doing everything to make sure they are ready out the gate with BlackBerry 10 for every target market from the consumer to the enterprise. The great strength of BlackBerry 10 is that it is able to support the needs of users and enterprise requirements from ActiveSync to a full BES implementation.
I then asked Vivek what it was about BlackBerry 10 that shows off the BlackBerry DNA users have come to appreciate over the years. He related that when it came to designing a keyboard on glass RIM had to rethink how they tested it. With physical keyboards they had machines with mechanical fingers testing for the optimal shape, size, and angle of the keys. With BlackBerry 10 touchscreen only devices RIM could no longer use that testing method and so RIM recreated it in a software layer. This learning layer sits between what you are actually hitting on the touchscreen glass and what you want to be pressing and learns from your usage. That means the BlackBerry 10 keyboard is constantly learning from your usage and improving with you. Vivek confirmed that this will cover the whole range of features including even the smaller refinements like AutoText that RIM’s competition is still struggling with. This is the sort of baked in BlackBerry DNA users have come to expect that has been missing in previous touchscreen only BlackBerrys.
Vivek highlighted how RIM has made a huge focus on making BlackBerry 10 designed for one handed use. BlackBerry Flow is all about this streamlined approach and the one handed use is an area BlackBerry devices have always shined. Things as simple as not putting key buttons on the top of the screen that the competition cannot seem to get straight. Shlomo asked Vivek if BlackBerry 10 is designed for right or left hand use and it turns out that they designed it to work with either hand. Jeff even showed how half the time he uses his BlackBerry 10 device left handed. He even highlighted that the VP of UI design is left handed and made sure the device works just as well one handed in either hand.
RIM has been touting the benefits of the BlackBerry Hub in BlackBerry 10 but I was curious how Vivek would describe the upgrade from BlackBerry 7’s unified inbox. Vivek said that the main upgrade from the unified inbox in BlackBerry 7 to the BlackBerry Hub in BlackBerry 10 is the ability for actions to be taken from inside the Hub. For example, BlackBerry 7 was essentially just messages so you would get a message from Facebook and respond. With BlackBerry 10 you can actually perform all of the Facebook actions of the app from within the Hub. This is true for Twitter, LinkedIn, Calendar, BBM, and more. It builds upon what users already love in BlackBerry 7 and takes it many steps further. The best part is that this hook in with actionable items in the hub is fully open to developers to create their own connections and extend the Hub further.
On a side note quite a few users have asked me if multiple calendars will be supported with Gmail/Exchange/etc and the ability to add multiple combined contact lists. I am happy to report that Jeff showed off both of those features at our meeting and it seamlessly combines them into each app. Kudos to Tungle and Gist on that!
I posed a loaded question to Vivek asking him how he would explain to users who have tried the PlayBook why BlackBerry 10 is a whole different experience. Vivek responded that the BlackBerry PlayBook OS was the beginning of the integration of all the acquisitions RIM had made on the road to BlackBerry 10 and many items were not rounded out. The PlayBook hardware was and still is solid but the device was panned for lacks of key “BlackBerry” elements like PIM and email. While BlackBerry 10 is built on the same core OS as the PlayBook, namely QNX, the main change is that the native experience is now refined and totally rewritten in Cascades compared to the previous Adobe AIR in the PlayBook. Vivek also stressed the BlackBerry PlayBook is still getting updated to BlackBerry 10 in 2013 with a free update that will breathe some serious life into the product.
I decided to go out on a limb asking what has RIM done to address two of the biggest complaints users have about the current BlackBerry OS: hourglass-ing and required lengthy reboots for things like app installs. Jeff and Vivek took it in stride saying that RIM does not even have an hourglass element in the OS and that locked thread concept is gone. In terms of reboots Vivek could not go into details but he said that has been vastly improved in terms of boot times. Just like the PlayBook, apps install in the background and do not require a reboot. Even OS updates allow you to download the update and choose when you want to reboot to the new OS update which is unique in the mobile OS world.
While discussing what RIM was releasing to market with BlackBerry 10 Vivek pointed out how RIM arrived at the list of features they are launching BlackBerry 10 with. They reached out to their key development partners about the new platform and asked them what they need and want to see from a development platform and RIM took that in and developed the platform developers were looking for. Vivek stated that he just came back from BlackBerry Jam Asia where the level of excitement ranged from large development houses and content providers to indie developers. RIM is making a strong push to have a solid and international app catalog at launch.
Last but not least I asked Vivek and Jeff to go a little deeper into BlackBerry 10’s balance feature and ability to lock the work partition off at any time. I was very interested in how RIM executed this since RIM’s main competition in the enterprise, Good on iOS, has a large flaw in terms of it not running in the background. Instead Good requires you to fire up the work container app when you get a notification and then after entering your password it will download the latest information. On the other hand in BlackBerry 10 both the work and personal domains are always in sync with email, contacts, calendar, etc.
As you can see in the surrounding images the Balance work container is easy to lock off. If it is unlocked your contact app, hub, App World, and more will show the Work data. If it is locked you will see everything but the work data and Work only apps will have a locked overlay.
That’s all folks! Let us know if you have any follow up questions!