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5/3/2011
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Blackberry 7 Announced

RIM announced the Blackberry 7 platform on Monday, but it doesn't have the QNX operating system that many have been anticipating.

Blackberry 6.0 was released just last fall and was RIM's first platform that was designed to compete against the iPhone and phones running on Android. It wasn't a huge success though and didn't do much, if anything, to stem the device maker's slide in market share. I wouldn't count on Blackberry 7 having a radically different effect.

When RIM announced the PlayBook tablet, it told us the tablet would be powered by QNX. We also know that QNX will replace the current Blackberry platform at some point in the future. Since the PlayBook has launched, it was reasonable to expect that the next major version number for Blackberry would be QNX powered. Instead, RIM chose to name a comparatively minor upgrade 7 and skip the 6.1 tag.

So what has improved in 7? The browser is substantially improved according to RIM. HTML5 support has been improved to include HTML 5 video. The JavaScript compiler has been beefed up to make the overall browsing experience faster.

In a nod to IT department's concern for users having personal and corporate data on a device, Blackberry 7 will support the new Blackberry Balance service. It will keep the user's personal and business contacts separate as well as allowing them to use social networks like Twitter and Facebook and install apps while keeping a tight reign on how corporate contacts and information are used. Blackberry Balance is part of RIM's foray into supporting multiple platforms like iOS and Android.

The downside of 7 is you need a new device to get it. The Blackberry 9900 and 9930 will be launched later this year, but absolutely none of the current devices will get an upgrade. According to Engadget, the new hardware has been very tightly integrated with the new software, making upgrades impossible. That alone may be worth calling this 7 instead of 6.1, but one really has to question why did RIM need to take this route given that 6 is just a few months old?

Of course, this means that when QNX launches, which would be Blackberry 8 at the earliest, it won't work on any existing devices. For a company going after consumers, it seems to have overlooked the fact that people like to upgrade the OS on their phones--keeping them fresh without having to fork over hundreds of dollars for new hardware with every new platform release.

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