BlackBerry 10 Launched with New Handsets Z10 and Q10

Research in Motion, unveiled three new products yesterday at the event where BlackBerry 10 was unveiled. But they first started off by renaming their company as BlackBerry from Research in Motion. So the company will no longer be known as RIM.

BlackBerry needed to showcase something fantastic that will mark a turnaround. In the past few years competition from iPhone and Android has more or less crippled BlackBerry’s dominance over smartphone markets.

BlackBerry started off by showcasing BlackBerry 10 the OS, Z10 a touch screen phone device and Q10 a device that supports a physical QWERTY keypad.

BlackBerry10

BlackBerry 10 Features

  • The BB10 OS supports multi-tasking and sharing seamlessly. The design is such, that it encourages users from moving into an app and out of it with swiping.
  • The Peek feature, which allows all apps to get integration with the notifications on the phone is very useful. The OS really leverages the notifications a lot better any phone like iPhone or Android.
  • There are many small changes which make user experiance a lot better. For example the camera starts recording a video without being asked to. A tap anywhere on the screen takes a snap.
  • The app market is where BB10 is looking weak. They have about 70,000 apps and lot of the popular ones on Android or iOS are not available. For example there is no Instagram on BB10.

BlackBerry Z10 Features

  • The device features a 4.2 inch screen, 1280 X 768 display with pixel density of 356 dpi.
  • The phone ships with a removable 1800mAH battery, 8MP rear camera and 2MP front camera.
  • 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 Plus processor with 2 GB RAM.
  • The phone supports Bluetooth, NFC, LTE.

This phone is a the touch screen one and will probably end up as the showpiece phone for BlackBerry. The hardware is decent and it runs on a new shiny OS. But the apps (rather lack of apps) could hurt its prospects over the year.

BlackBerry Q10 Features

This phone is a lot different from the ones most phone makers showcase. The real reason being the a physical keyboard in QWERTY style.

The phone has 3-inch wide screen. The features of the Q10 are very similar to the Z10 device.

Road ahead for BlackBerry?

I am not too convinced that BlackBerry will survive in the long run. The BB10 OS has introduced some amazing features but those might easily get picked up Android and iOS as new updates roll out this year. BlackBerry best change of survival is at displacing the Nokia + Windows 8 phone combine. That will allow it to settle at third place.

At the end of the day, App ecosystem is what makes or breaks a mobile phone and in that regard BlackBerry’s troubles still exist. If it fixes its apps market, which is easier said than done, then we might see a revival of BlackBerry.

Do drop in your comments.

5 Tech Companies for Whom 2013 Could be a “Make or Break” Year

As I decided to jot down things that I might expect to happen in the technology world in 2013, I ended up writing mostly thinking about Apple, Samsung, Google and Facebook. But what about very popular companies that are struggling? I thought it would be interesting to write down about five tech related companies for whom 2013 could potentially be a “make or break” year.

#1. Research in Motion (BlackBerry)

RIM BlackBerryThe Canadian company has been struggling not just from competition by Apple’s iPhone but also Android based phones. Once a BlackBerry phone symbolized the words “smart phone”. It is still a very popular phone with office going executives but it has lost out in being relevant to younger buyers. RIM also has seen its tablet offering called Playbook finding very few takers.

RIM will launch BlackBerry 10 featuring the new BB10 OS on 30th January. The year ahead with new BlackBerry phones could possibly mark its big turn around or its fall into the abyss. Forget an about turn, I am not sure it will even manage to keep a status quo in the mobile market. It will face additional competition from new Windows 8 phones that will enter the market in bigger numbers in 2013.

#2. Nokia

Nokia WIndows PhonesNokia has a glorious past as cell-phone manufacturer just like RIM. The company actually failed to get enough app developers on its platform and saw itself underestimating the acceptability of touch-screen phones. While Samsung bet on Android to produce smart-phones, Nokia shook hands with Microsoft.

In the year ahead, Nokia has a well received Lumia 920 running Windows 8. The next iteration of Lumia 920 will be crucial. The real problem for Nokia is that at the moment its destiny is not its own hands. It is in the hands of Microsoft’s Windows 8 phone becoming popular. Nokia will not just be working hard in 2013 but also praying hard for success of Windows 8 phone.

#3. Facebook

Facebook App AndroidFacebook had a mixed year in 2012. It launched its IPO, bought Instagram and showed off a newly designed mobile app for iPhones and Android. But these were not exactly signs of great innovation by Facebook. These updates and acquisitions were mainly an exercise of catching up.

Facebook has not really been pushed too much by Google+ in 2012 but expect that to change in the year ahead. Facebook is still struggling to find a way to make money from mobile phone platforms. More people will end up using Facebook as an app from their phones or tablets than their browsers. This would mean the current revenue stream of getting clicks from ads will see a decline. Facebook Gifts is a novel idea which would make Facebook’s revenue model as e-commerce instead of advertising. It also has not exactly fixed its reputation on the privacy front.

If Facebook continues to struggle to make money from it’s mobile phone platform 2013, it would with some big questions marks on Facebook’s future. That said its 1 billion users will make sure it remains relevant despite the health of its revenues.

#4. Dropbox

Dropbox_logoPersonally I love using Dropbox. I have used it for over two years. I love its referral program and also use it as a default service to backup my photos.

But the threat to Dropbox is very real. It faces competition from some seriously big players with some seriously deep pockets. Google Drive and Apple’s iCloud services will challenge Dropbox.

The problem for Dropbox seems two-fold. It lacks the financial resources of Apple and Google. Additionally it also lacks having its own mobile phone platform like an iOS and Android or online services like Gmail or Google search. If Dropbox does not hold its own against Google and Apple, it might have to think of a dreaded word called “acquisition”.

#5. Microsoft

Windows8_packageI thought more than a few times before putting Microsoft in this list. But it makes sense that 2013 will be the year, Microsoft will make a incredible turn-around or end up further behind the likes of Google and Apple. Microsoft has faltered with its online business with Bing. It has also invested in So.cl which is a social network that not one has taken notice of as yet.

Windows 8 as an OS is great attempt by Microsoft. It is a real step forward design wise by Microsoft. The company’s big problem is that Windows 8 phone is not exactly getting people very excited. The Surface tablets also have not exactly caught people’s imagination and Microsoft has nothing in the 7-inch tablet form factor.

One major issue for Microsoft has been developing a great app eco-system for developers. At the moment is a bit of a ghost town. It is nowhere close to the likes of Apple’s app store or Google Play. If Microsoft does not fix these drawbacks with Windows 8 over the year, 2013 could end up being the year which would mark the beginning of the end in Microsoft’s history.

What are your expectations from the tech world for the year ahead? Do let us know in your comments. Also as this is the last post before the year 2012 ends, let me take this opportunity to wish all our readers a very “Happy New Year!”

BlackBerry Gives Real-time Access to Indian Government

The Canadian firm RIM – owners of BlackBerry have been discussing security arrangements with the Indian government for more than the past 18 months. It appears the government and BlackBerry has reached a settlement on giving access to intercept messages shared over BlackBerry’s messaging service.

Way back in August, 2010 Blackberry had offered a solution that would have allowed lawful access via an industry forum. This solution was not acceptable to the Indian government as it wanted RIM’s servers to be located in India. This was to facilitate easy interception of encrypted messages by security agencies.

Yesterday, according to The Hindu, RIM has confirmed to the government that it has set up a server in Mumbai, India. This will allow real-time access to the government for its messaging service. Though it seems that at the moment, the government has not insisted on interception of mail sent by BlackBerry users.

Why messaging is under scanner?

    • The government seems to take the view that emails cannot be used for real-time communication and hence might not require real-time access. But things are different with messaging services and even Nokia’s Push Mail service has been told to give the security agencies adequate access.
    • Another point to be noted is that the government has moved focus from manufacturers for smart-phones to network service providers like Vodafone, Airtel and others to provide access to interception.
    • The government has in recent months got a lot of criticism, for its recommendations to internet companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter to screen all their content. Hence asking for email interception at the moment might have raised another round of criticism over internet censorship.

BlackBerry’s Future

BlackBerry is available in 175 countries and India is not the only place it has had issues over encryption and access to its messaging service for security purposes. It might even roll out BlackBerry OS for other manufacturers to use, which might be a reason for BlackBerry to get not be too adamant. It also probably wants a clear road ahead in places like India, which is one of the world biggest phone markets and still one of the few markets in the world which prefers BlackBerry phones over Apple’s iPhones.

Unfortunately the recent service outage of its messaging service which lasted several days has not won BlackBerry many fans either.

What are your views on BlackBerry settling their dispute over access to their encrypted messaging service with governments around the world? Do drop in your comments.

Does BlackBerry Outage Point Towards its Impending Demise!

BlackBerry_logo_DownLet me first start with a disclaimer, I am not suggesting RIM’s BlackBerry business is about to be destroyed. I just looked up information about all the major service outages by companies in the last 15 years, and found there seems a relation between a company’s fall from grace and outages to its services. All services have their outages, but some major ones can really cause inconveniences.

I wanted to point out three brands that never recovered after a major outage; which might give us an idea where BlackBerry is heading.

AOL’s Outage problems

AOL_Logo_smallBack in the mid 1990s, AOL was like Google and Facebook rolled into one for many internet users in the US. It was not into search but it was providing internet access along with email accounts. It was also a major player in the online instant messaging.

It was so iconic, that even Hollywood epitomised AOL’s new email alert in the movie ‘You’ve Got Mail”.

Then started the outages. The first one was in 1996, then another in 1998 and later in 1999. Users started moving to other email providers like Yahoo and Hotmail and today we see AOL as pretty much a media company, more than an internet services company.

MSN Messenger

MSN_Messenger_logo_smallMSN Messenger along with Yahoo Instant Messenger were the big boys of instant messaging after AOL saw downward growth. Hotmail was part of Microsoft and it obviously meant millions of email users could not chat on MSN Messenger.

In July 2001, MSN Messenger had an outage which almost lasted for a week. It was also saw an outage in 2003 and 2005.

MSN Messenger was never the force it was once before, and that is quite obvious that Microsoft chose to buy Skype for billions instead of ramping up Live Messenger.

Yahoo Mail Downtime

Yahoo_Mail_logo_smallYahoo has often been on a downward spiral for years. It did have an outage in April, 2011. This outage actually was not very crippling but it did impact over a million accounts. Today there are rumours the Yahoo is up for sale. Also it is pretty clear the Yahoo is not going to be a major internet company in the future.

Future of BlackBerry

This proves there is a link between service outage and success of a company. Most services have minor outages like, which could last a few minutes to a few hours. But when outages go on for days it shows that there is something drastically wrong with the company.

But all is not lost for RIM, as there are other services like Skype which had a major outage last year but still managed to keep most of its customers despite an outage that lasted several hours and days in some cases. Another case was when Gmail had an outage and even deleted some data of users but it manages to still remain competitive.

RIM is doing the right thing by offering some premium apps free, but it will need to improve not only its service but also roll out awesome handsets which are not getting overshadowed by iPhone and the Android based smartphones.

How Do People Use Mobile Apps! [Infographic]

I often see my friends and colleagues hooked to a phone app. It might be Facebook, Twitter or an email app, but almost every smart phone user ends up having their favourite Apps. Phone Apps have actually made things a lot easier. I know some friends who do not even sit in front of their computer for days, because of smart phone apps.

Here is a nice infographic from XCube Labs, which show some interesting statistics. For example, an astounding 77% smart phone users have used it to search online. And 95% of them are searching for local information.

It also shows that Apple iPhone users end up spending, twice as much time than the average time spent on gaming.

How Do People Use Mobile Apps!

 

Thanks to Dheeraj for the tip. :-)

Do you own a smart phone or plan to buy one? Which one would you choose and why? Do drop in your comment.

BlackBerry Outage Downs BBM and Email!

BlackBerry_logoRIM’s BlackBerry network which allows users access to internet, messenger and email has faced an outage for the past few hours.

This has affected users across Europe, Middle East and Africa. Potentially this will impact millions of users. It is the last thing RIM needed while facing the heat from the rise of Apple’s iPhone and Android based smart-phone.

BlackBerry’s woes…

BlackBerry has been in the news for all the wrong reasons in the past few months and years. It has faced criticism over its secure network with many governments across the world, asking RIM to enable access to their network.

Also its tablet offering called BlackBerry PlayBook has hardly met any success like its competitors, mainly iPad and Android based tablets from Samsung.

Hopefully the network outage will be resolved soon, allowing users to be connected. I won’t be surprised that once the network is up, quite a few of them might search for information about a iPhone. ;-)

Are you a BlackBerry user and are you facing issues? Do drop in your comments.

Source: BlackBerry on Twitter

Blackberry’s solution for India

Research in Motion’s Blackberry has found a solution for its Indian users. It will have a corporate forum which will allow the Indian government to get access to data which might be sensitive from a security point of view.

Previously the government had given a deadline until the 31st of August 2010 for RIM to conform with certain demands. The sore point has been the messaging service which is encrypted and has a lot of users using it for privacy.

What are Indian demands?

The government has wanted some clarifications from Blackberry since 2008. It seems it has set a deadline and looks a lot more serious on following through and if needed even banning Blackberry’s messaging service.

  • Indian government wants a Blackberry’s server to be located in India. This is so that their solutions can be tested within the country.
  • The government wants to be able to track or access encrypted data sent over the RIM messaging network for security purposes.

Blackberry’s Solution

Blackberry has offered a solution that it will lead an industry forum to allow lawful access. This access will be given only on issues on security. This offer has got Blackberry a reprieve of 60 days.

What saved blackberry?

  • The Common Wealth Games 2010 start in Delhi, India on the 3rd of October. This will obviously attract a lot of tourists from around the world. International criticism of banning RIM’s messaging service is what the Government might be trying to avoid.
  • Considering there are over 1.2 million Blackberry users in India, the government might think twice before actually following through with a ban.

What could this mean to other companies?

  • It is not clear what the plans are for the government for the future. But if RIM complies to demands for data access than Google and Skype might be the next companies which would need to give assurances to India’s telecom regulators.
  • There is speculation that this might lead to people to move over to getting an iPhone or the latest from Nokia. But that seems unlikely as the service affected will only the messaging service.
  • Also applications like Nimbuzz which already offers alternatives which comply with the regulations.

What do you think about the entire issues? Is RIM right to protect the privacy of its users or should it comply with regulators? Do drop in your comments.

Link: Bloomberg

Some dope on the new Blackberry Storm 2

The Mobile market will in all probability start to heat up with competition getting tougher for most manufacturers. There are many new players in the market. The ever improving Android, palm and Apple based products he are really crowding out the competiton for RIM.

Last year when Research in Motion (RIM) released Blackberry Storm it was criticized for not matching upto the standards set by iPhone. One of the main criticism of Blackberry Storm was that it had omitted support for Wi-fi connectivity. So now RIM has come out with Blackberry Storm 2 and released it without much fanfare yesterday.

blackberry_storm2

Blackberry Storm 2

  • Now that RIM has released Blackberry Storm 2 it has included Wi-fi connectivity which was not available with Storm 1 and claims that they have taken care of issues with its touch screen functionality. They have included a 3.2 megapixel camera which can record video.
  • It supports the usual things like MMS/SMS, Multimedia player, access to Blackberry App Store and also browser. This is a great thing as with Wi-fi compatibility it can be quite handy. It also includes a 480 x 360 pixel resolution display.
  • It has a 16 add-on memory which is included with the phone with 2 GB built-in memory.
  • One big positive for Blackberry Storm 2 is that it will cost 280 USD. With a contract it seems to be competitive as it would cost approx $180. In India it could possible be available for less than INR 15,000.
  • Over all it looks like a decent mobile with all the usual things that are included. As a smartphone it does not look like RIM is offering any sort of competition to iPhone but it seems to have just turned out a improved version of model which was welcomed with more criticism than kudos.

Links: ZdNet | PC World | RIM

Reliance offers ‘E-Lite Plan for BlackBerry’ for just Rs. 299 per month!

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Reliance Mobile and Research in Motion (RIM) have introduced into the Indian market an affordable plan called the “E-Lite plan for Blackberry” for smartphone users. The plan allows Reliance to reach out to a wider market by providing affordable and high quality services to consumers, at the same time allowing consumers to stay connected through email and instant messaging on their smartphones while on the move.

For just Rs. 299 per month, the plan offers users “unlimited” access to email and instant messaging (IM) on their BlackBerry smartphones.

Reliance customers can use:

  • Up to 10 supported POP3/IMAP email accounts (including most popular ISP email accounts such as Yahoo Mail and Google Mail).
  • Popular attachment formats including JPEG, TIF, Microsoft Word, Excel and Power Point while on the move.
  • Unlimited IM services like Yahoo Messenger, Google Talk, Windows Live Messenger and BlackBerry Messenger.

Plan available for all BlackBerry smartphones from Reliance Mobile:

  • BlackBerry 8703e
  • BlackBerry 8830
  • BlackBerry Curve 8300
  • BlackBerry Curve 8900
  • BlackBerry Pearl 8110
  • BlackBerry Pearl 8130

Airtel and Vodafone also offer similar plans, which costs subscribers Rs. 299 per month.

Share your comments on what you think.