BlackBerry 10: What we know for sure

There’s been no shortage of BlackBerry 10 rumours, predictions and guesstimations clogging the airwaves over the past year. Many of those falsehoods will be shot down when Research In Motion releases its next-generation operating system on 30 January. But in the meantime, we’ve sifted through the mounds of gossip to outline what we know for sure about the forthcoming OS. Below, we’ve separated the factual wheat from the chaff to bring you a list of facts and features that will definitely accompany the launch of BlackBerry 10.

It's based on QNX.

As RIM shifts to compete with the likes of iOS and Android, it has abandoned its former BlackBerry operating system in favour of the greener pastures of QNX, a Unix-like platform that will ostensibly help place the company more firmly in the modern era of mobile computing. RIM acquired the Canadian company behind QNX in 2010 and began the first phase of rolling out its new OS with last year’s QNX-based PlayBook tablet. In addition to overhauling the feel of the OS, QNX ostensibly brings a faster, smoother and more dynamic mobile experience with multimedia and multitasking due to be at the forefront of BlackBerry 10.

RIM is introducing a brand-new user interface.

QNX will likely boost performance, but it also means that BlackBerry 10 will have a brand-new user interface - one that might be unfamiliar to existing or past BlackBerry customers. The so-called ‘Flow’ UI emphasises fluidity and the ability to navigate easily between different tasks, allowing users to switch from app to app without having to return to the home screen each time. Along those lines, the interface also allows users to manage running apps simply through a series of swipe gestures. A unified inbox, dubbed ‘BlackBerry Hub’, gathers messages from different sources, including BBM, text, email and various social media networks, and allows users view them directly from within a single notification centre.

There’s a redesigned BlackBerry World market place.

In dropping ‘app’ from the branding of its web store and renaming it just ‘BlackBerry World’, RIM has confirmed what we’ve suspected all along - BlackBerry 10 will bring with it a different approach to its online market place, broadening its content offerings beyond just apps. Much like Google did in turning its Android Market into Google Play, BlackBerry World will see an uptick in entertainment content. That means films, music and other content that will make its devices stronger on the multimedia front. RIM has described the new web store as a “one-stop shop for all of your mobile entertainment needs.” The company has also made significant efforts to ensure the re-branded web store is also home to plenty of apps, having recently hosted two developer events and offered plenty of incentives for those who build BlackBerry apps. In fact, RIM CEO Thorsten Heins recently told German newspaper Die Welt that there are currently some 70,000 apps in BlackBerry World, with more due to be added after launch.

BlackBerry Enterprise Service gets fancier.

RIM rolled out BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10 earlier this week with an emphasis on the promise that the updated management tool will add a handful of updates geared towards enterprise productivity. The flagship feature will likely be allowing IT staff to manage their workers’ devices through BES 10 whether or not they’re BlackBerrys. Enterprise customers will be able to manage employees’ handsets and tablets in what appears to be a flexible, customisable and scalable way using a web-based admin console with wide-ranging capabilities.

RIM’s BlackBerry Balance technology will play a starring role.

The Waterloo, Ontario-based firm has been touting BlackBerry Balance for a while, targeting the growing BYOD trend while ostensibly allowing a firm grip on security. It’s built to help users keep their personal data separate from their work information, allowing for sensitive content to be protected while also allowing them to maintain privacy. More specifically, when implemented, it prevents personal applications from accessing work data, and restricts work information from being sent through personal channels. Though it’s not a brand-new feature, it’s taking centre stage with BlackBerry 10 as RIM seeks to remind customers of the sort of enterprise-geared technology that helped it earn its reputation in the first place.

BBM gets upgraded with video chat and screen-sharing features.

BlackBerry Messenger, the instant messenger app that propelled BlackBerry to popularity with the average consumer, is getting a facelift in BlackBerry 10. Though it’s still, at its core, an instant messaging application, it incorporates a handful of new features that are sure to impress. Voice was a welcome addition when it launched for BlackBerry 7 late last year, and BlackBerry 10 is set to improve on that by adding the ability to make video calls. Video calls on BB10 will also include a screen-sharing function that will allow users to display their screens to friends and colleagues while on said call. There’s no word yet on whether these features will be available over cellular connections or restricted to Wi-Fi, but we’re sure to find out next week.

We’ll see six BlackBerry 10-based smartphones in 2013.

Despite dropping occasional hints over the past year, RIM has kept mum about the details of the handsets it will announce in conjunction with BlackBerry 10 next week. We’re expecting a shift away from physical keyboards being a mainstay of BlackBerry handsets, though they’re unlikely to disappear completely. The primary device RIM has been using to show off developer versions of the operating system is a full-touchscreen one, though there’s no indication that it will be BB10’s flagship phone. What we know for sure is that the company will release six different BlackBerry handsets in 2013 spanning the high-end, mid-range and budget segments of the market, though confirmed details about those devices are scant.

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