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BlackBerry 10 unveiled

After what seems like years of anticipation, BlackBerry is about to unveil its new platform to the world. If you honestly believe that no one cares about BlackBerry anymore, you should wander down to the event venue in London where people are queuing up outside in the hope that there will be space for them inside. Make no mistake, this is a big event.

That said, the questions are still lingering like large, obvious elephants in the auditorium. Will this be enough to turn things around for BlackBerry? Will the public adopt the new platform? How will it serve the ever-important business market while still being cool enough for consumers? And will the handsets and user experience be up to the task?

As the clock ticks down towards 15:00 GMT, we’re about to find out the answers to those questions.

Rob Orr – MD UK & Ireland RIM – confirms that the main event is going to be a live videocast from the event in New York. Thorsten Heins -CEO RIM - will, unsurprisingly be doing the official unveiling over in the Big Apple.

The video montage of key developers and users from around the globe paints a picture that BlackBerry 10 is the second coming – maybe it is, I’m looking forward to getting my hands on a device and finding out for myself though.

Heins says that “innovation is at the heart of RIM” and that was the key to BlackBerry 10. “Today is not the finish line, it’s the starting line,” Heins says that BlackBerry 10 is for people who want the most from their smartphones, for people who want to flow from one app to another without needing to hit the home button all the time. “BlackBerry 10 will keep them moving” bold words, so let’s see how it’s going to do that.

Heins says that a couple of years ago RIM had to decide whether to adopt someone else’s operating system, or build an entirely new platform itself. The Canadian company chose option two, and Heins is grateful that RIM was able to build something innovative and new.

Heins has pulled a new branding message out of the bag – RIM is no more, only BlackBerry lives. Which kind of makes sense, since pretty BlackBerry is far more well known than RIM, and even more so than Research in Motion.

Heins unveils the BlackBerry Z10 and Q10, both running BlackBerry 10. The Z10 has a textured back to ensure that you don’t drop it, while the 4.2in screen is large enough to be “cinematic” but doesn’t make the handset too large.

The BlackBerry Q10 has a 3.1in screen and a hardware keyboard, which is going to make a LOT of hardcore BlackBerry users very happy indeed. Good to see that BlackBerry has listened to its customers, which bodes well for the success of the platform.

“These devices offer the best typing experience” – again, many BlackBerry users wouldn’t argue with that, but I can see an iPhone/BlackBerry showdown on the horizon.

The demonstration of BlackBerry Flow shows how multi-tasking is a key feature of BlackBerry 10. The ability to “peek” at one app, while using another is pretty cool. In fact, taking the need for home buttons out of the equation is compelling – remember WebOS?

With BlackBerry Flow you only need your thumb to navigate the whole system, switching between apps with simple swipes and gestures.

BlackBerry Hub has all you communication and social activity in one place, where you can flick between different services without having to fire up new apps to do so.

Keyboard has been fully updated making it easy to get to special symbols – simply swipe down anywhere in the keyboard to get to the symbols. There’s also language recognition, so simply start typing and the BlackBerry will recognise the language you’re typing in and adapt the text accordingly.

BlackBerry Balance allows you to switch between personal and work environments with a simple gesture. “You’re not in and out of work and personal…both applications co-exist, but you get a single, unified user experience.” Could this be the end to work and personal smartphones? Perhaps even a Band Aid for the BYOD headache facing so many IT managers.

Major update for BlackBerry Messenger – the service now includes video calling. BBM Screen Share also allows collaboration, where one user can take over the screen of another – another plus point for remote diagnostics and management.

BlackBerry 10 camera lets you take a photo by tapping anywhere on the screen, and you can drag the focus point around with your finger. There’s a built-in picture editor – effects can be applied to photos by simply swiping a filter across the image itself. No need to fire up a separate app, it's all part of the camera app.

BlackBerry Story Maker lets you create a project made from video, photos while choosing what music you want to accompany it. Quite nice, but one of those features you’ll probably use once and then forget about – but maybe that’s just me.

Heins says that BB10 will be launching with a huge library of music and movies from all the major studios through the BlackBerry World store. This is good news, since the phrase “content is king” is very accurate when it comes to smartphones. It doesn’t matter how good your hardware or OS is if you don’t have anything to run on it – again, remember WebOS?

There are over 70,000 applications available on BlackBerry 10 today with thousands more apps arriving every week. Skype is committed to BlackBerry 10, along with Kindle, Whatsapp, Sap and the essential Angry Birds too. This is all good news, seriously!

Good to see Rdio in there too, since it’s my current favourite as far as music streaming goes.

BlackBerry started by defining its targets. The company looked at the apps people were using on other platforms and made sure that those apps would be available at launch for BlackBerry 10.

BlackBerry World is not the one-stop-shop for all apps, music and video - much like Google Play one might say. Multiple applications can now be downloaded and installed simultaneously from BlackBerry World.

The BlackBerry Z10 will be available in the UK tomorrow, before anywhere else in the world. That's right, you can nip down to Carphone Warehouse and pick one up tomorrow.

BlackBerry has announced a new Global Creative Director – Alicia Keys. Not sure what this is going to achieve, but hey, Intel has Okay, Robert Rodriguez and Neil Gaiman on video promoting BlackBerry 10 too. A decent mix of celeb endorsements.

And that’s it from Heins, we’re back to a live presentation here in London.

Angelo Fienga from Cisco announcing Webex Meeting for BlackBerry 10. This can be downloaded now from BlackBerry World and will allow users to collaborate more easily. Simply tapping a meeting reminder in the calendar will join the meeting and allow you to communicate via voice or text.

Rovio up on stage now showing off Angry Birds Star Wars on BlackBerry 10 – looks great and seems to play as well as on any other platform, but then why wouldn’t it? The entire Angry Birds back catalogue will be available on BlackBerry 10, and the first 1.2-million copies of Angry Birds Star Wars will be free.

All BlackBerry Z10 handsets will be 4G enabled – they’re ready for EE’s LTE network and will also be compatible with other 4G networks as they come online throughout the year.

That’s it – but we’ll be reviewing the BlackBerry Z10 very soon, so check back for the full lowdown on the new handset and BlackBerry 10.

Riyad has been entrenched in technology publishing for more years than he cares to remember, having staffed and edited some of the largest and most successful IT magazines in the UK. In 2003 he joined forces with Hugh Chappell to create They built TR into the UK’s market leading technology publication before selling the title to IPC Media / Time Warner in 2007. As Editorial Director at Net Communities, Riyad will be helping to develop the publishing portfolio, making IT Pro Portal the best publication it can be.