What Blackberry’s new BBX means for the mobile industry

The mobile market is never short of news, with the four leading players – RIM, Google, Apple and Microsoft – rarely out of the headlines as they make announcements to stay ahead of the race. Whilst Google and Apple are battling it out with their respective new operating systems, Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and iphone 4S, we shouldn’t ignore what the other players are doing to gain market share.

For example, RIM recently announced its new BBX operating system, combining what they claim to be the ‘best of recently acquired real-time QNX OS and the best of BlackBerry OS’ – a hybrid that will work on both Smartphones and tablets. QNX is a commercial Unix-like real-time operating system, aimed primarily at the embedded systems market. As a microkernel-based OS, QNX is based on the idea of running most of the OS in the form of a number of small tasks, known as servers. It’s not clear when we will see the first BlackBerry BBX Smartphone or tablet, as the BBX SDK has yet to reach developers – we may have to wait until late next year.

As part of the awareness campaign around this announcement, RIM is running a series of app development ‘Hackathons’, the aim being to attract developers to the RIM platform, whilst also enticing new customers. The objective is to provide a large and revitalised app library to open up RIM’s products to a whole new user base; as by attracting developers to build apps, the hope is that customers will follow. 

Following a turbulent few months, the announcement, which represents a mammoth investment, signifies that RIM is going to huge lengths to survive in a fast paced market. It also sends out a clear message to the other big players that they must evolve or risk being swept aside. This may be the start of a comeback to rival the return of Apple from the disaster that was the 1990’s, and further highlights that with the ever-changing mobile market, it’s difficult to predict who will be the dominant force in two months time, never mind in two years.

Time will tell what the impact will be on the consumer market. Traditionally, the biggest mobile players have sent out messages to different user groups; Blackberry has historically been the brand of choice for corporate IT departments – thanks to the perceived security it provides – whereas iPhone has been more popular in the consumer market because of its trendy image.  RIM is challenging convention with Blackberry BBX, as the same functionality being offered to PlayBook users will be offered to Smartphone users.

For the mobile industry as a whole, choice is good; however fragmentation in the market creates its own challenges, such as where to invest when a dominant OS can’t be established in the long term. We within the enterprise can either choose to attempt to keep up with the pace or we can opt to leverage an application platform where the responsibility for keeping up with the market lies with the supplier and all we need do is develop our applications. Whichever model we choose, we need to ensure our mobile strategy is practical to suit the needs of the business, yet future-proof in the face of change.

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