May 5, 2011

BlackBerry World take aways

I'm on my way home thinking about the last couple of days I spent at BlackBerry World in Orlando. The weather was amazing. It must be because it's so crappy in Gatineau/Ottawa these days that it makes one appreciate seeing the sun in the sky! More than the weather though, the buzz at the conference was very good. I haven't read what the analysts are saying yet, but from where I stood, i.e. in the crowd, people were keen and sold on BlackBerry. I have never seen so many BlackBerries. Over the two days I must have seen less than ten non-BlackBerry phones. This year was the biggest attended BlackBerry World ever with 6000 attendees.

First the candy:
On the first day we were treated to some good stuff. Mike Lazaridis introduced us to the new things happening in devices and the OS. Later on during the keynote, he announced that everyone attending would be getting a PlayBook and the crowd went wild!

The new Bold coming up this summer is a pretty cool device. It will sport both a full touch screen and a keyboard with BlackBerry OS 7. It's thin and it's powerful. It's good looking like yours truly! RIM needs to revamp the design of the OS very seriously, but this won't happen before the QNX devices are out next year.

BlackBerry is worldwide:
BlackBerries are everywhere and judging by the number of people who didn't speak English on the #bbwc twitter feed, there are a lot of them. I believe RIM is positioning itself to tap that market. In other words, there is more than North America for RIM. To support that, at its next Americas DevCon RIM will have Spanish and Portuguese tracks in addition to English.

So what about about the PlayBook:
The questions on my mind going in were all around the PlayBook.

Native applications, email, calendar, contacts, ... tasks:
They will be available this summer. Using a PlayBook one will be able to access emails natively and without linking to a BlackBerry. The demo I saw was slick and well done. Over all, I still think RIM could use a radical refresh on the UI chrome it has. To repeat myself and make my point, I'm growing tired of the fonts, the buttons etc. I believe RIM knows this and we can expect changes with the QNX devices next year - so far away I know!

Android Player:
You've got to give it to RIM, the demo of the Android Player is very slick. The integration of the Android applications onto the PlayBook is flawless. It looks just like native applications. Applications will be available in App World just like any other applications. In my mind they have both solved the application support and created another barrier to native application development. One could argue with Adobe support the tool set is going to be dramatically better for application support, and I believe the Adobe support will be a great selling point for enterprise support.

The sessions:
There were lots of sessions going on at once. I was only able to attend a few. I really enjoyed the Playbook Design Paradigm. I will do a brief write up on that exact topic shortly. I also attended several Healthcare related talks and they were good too. I took away that to this day much of the innovation is centred around efficiency of the hospital personnel and very little is done for the patient.

Enterprise vs Consumer:
Let's face it, RIM understands enterprise customers. Several times I spoke with enterprise buyers and RIM's sales pitch to them is resonating loud and clear. The PlayBook to them has what they need. What they said is it's secure, it's built on a great OS, QNX, and it works in nuclear plants not to mention in several million cars out there. That kind of information doesn't stick with you if it's not important in some ways. The Adobe support will play strong in the IT manager's mind. It lowers the barrier to entry for them to create custom applications. I think this is a good strategy.

Wrapping up:
RIM put on a great conference and it is looking to put in even more for its developers with two more developers' conferences.

The PlayBook needs the enterprise to embark on the bandwagon soon. RIM needs to get applications built for it. It's still early in the game and if the PlayBook is going to fly, my opinion is it's all going to start with the fertile grounds of the enterprise needs.

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