RIM has done a lot of talking about BlackBerry 10, the OS evolution it says will spearhead the company's fightback against Android and the iPhone.
And today it finally did more than just talk, officially launching BlackBerry 10 at BlackBerry World in Florida, and giving out BB10-running alpha build handsets for developers to start getting their hands dirty. The question is: can BlackBerry 10 really turn things around for RIM?
It's tempting to get carried away and say “yes” right off the bat, but that would be giving in to the hype that RIM hasn't been shy in laying on ahead of CEO Thorsten Heins' BlackBerry World 2012 keynote.
Yes, BlackBerry 10 looks great, and the Alpha Developer handset promises a lot (including bigger BlackBerrys judging by its 4.2in display).
The software keyboard has clearly been given plenty of attention, but considering RIM's messaging heritage we expected as much – especially with physical keyboards on their way out. BB10 also introduces flick gestures, for example for selecting words thrown up by the text autocomplete feature.
In general, what we saw of BlackBerry 10 looks about as different as we expected given all the hype. RIM says it's “agile and nimble”, though until we can find out for ourselves those are just two nice words in a presentation.
Heins also presided over a brief demo of BB10's camera software, which includes the ability to go back in time slightly should you just miss the perfect shot. In the greater context of BlackBerry 10 it's nothing but a gimmick feature, but it's the kind of gimmick that suggests all might not be lost after all if RIM really is serious about broadening its appeal.
That, surely, is the only way the company is going to survive long term, yet there remain serious doubts over just how committed it really is to making the kind of changes required.
Consumer-friendly camera tricks and hype-stirring BB10 prototypes suggest a growing understanding of how “the game is played”, yet we also had a large part of Heins' keynote devoted to RIM's corporate-level relationships.
Representatives of Salesforce.com and Cisco were invited on stage to assure us that their love for BlackBerry is as strong as ever, and Heins used terms like “leveraging infrastructures” as if he was addressing a RIM task group rather than a world tech press that has real doubts as to whether RIM will even be around in a couple of years' time.
Ultimately it was a preview of an OS that is still clearly being finalised, and it's only RIM's current situation that is causing us to look for answers that probably just aren't there yet.
But if we were to draw conclusions from today's announcement, we'd say first that RIM deserves plenty of credit for the work that's gone into BlackBerry 10, which appears to be a big step forward in just about every respect. But we'd then go on to point out that previews don't guarantee anything, and that our gut feeling is that – good though it may well be – BlackBerry 10 won't be enough to save Research in Motion.