What BlackBerry 6's Consumer Focus Means For Business - InformationWeek
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Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman

What BlackBerry 6's Consumer Focus Means For Business

Research In Motion is clearly targeting the end user with its latest operating system and Torch smartphone, but its core enterprise market can still find things to like.

BlackBerry 6 is Research In Motion's recently overhauled operating system. It became available on August 12, when the BlackBerry 9800 Torch went on sale at AT&T stores.

When RIM introduced the new platform in front of a large gathering of New York tech reporters, the company focused keenly on consumers. In fact, all the video demonstrations shown at the event were of normal people using BlackBerry 6 in their everyday lives. What happened to the powerful executive, the busy sales professional, the traveling field technician? Did RIM forget about them? Not entirely.

RIM used some interesting language to describe BlackBerry 6. The one that stuck in everyone's head is "fresh but familiar." RIM wanted the user interface to be different, but still easily understood by seasoned BlackBerry veterans.

"RIM was too cautious and left too much the same," said Current Analysis' Avi Greengart. "BlackBerry 6 is not a radical break." That's both good and bad. BlackBerry 6 has improved the browsing experience, added more integrated social networking features, and improved media handling. Fundamentally, however, BlackBerry 6 offers the same user interface with a more consumer friendly home screen.

RIM admitted that it had its eye on Joe and Jane Smith when designing the new user interface. "There were a number of goals in developing BlackBerry 6," said Andrew Bocking, VP of handheld software product management. "The overall drive in designing the user interface was the consumer. We added a number of new features that are important to the consumer, and speak to the broader market. BlackBerry 6 was enhanced for consumers, but maintains all the power that we have traditionally held in the enterprise."

You wouldn't know that if you attended the BlackBerry 6 launch event. RIM didn't talk all that much about BlackBerry 6's enterprise features. So, what are they?

Best Business Features

RIM strongly believes that the most important feature of BlackBerry 6 is the browser. "One of the big goals was to revitalize the browser. Basing not only the browser, but some of the underlying software, on WebKit, HTML5, and other Web standards was a key initiative," said Bocking.

It's easy to understand why. Apple and Google have offered RIM fierce competition with the iPhone and Android platforms. Both use WebKit-based browsers, and both are among the best available on any mobile handset. RIM really needed to supercharge the performance of its browser to keep in step with its competitors.

Greengart agrees that the browser is one of BlackBerry 6's best features. "The WebKit browser, along with gesture support, pinch-to-zoom, and inertial scrolling, makes for a dramatically better Web browsing experience. That is applicable to the enterprise as more employees move to the Web and use Web-based tools for research or their work. Sure, it adds something that RIM needs for consumer competition, but the browser is also the most important addition for enterprise users."

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