RIM overhauls BlackBerry OS

RIM has confirmed it will launch a new operating system for its BlackBerry smartphones in the next quarter, as it looks to close the features gap on more consumer-friendly rivals.

RIM overhauls BlackBerry OS

Describing the long-awaited operating system as one of the “biggest BlackBerry overhauls in years”, RIM co-Chief Executive Mike Lazaridis showed a short video of the OS to analysts gathered in Orlando, Florida.

At the heart of the OS is a more finger friendly interface, a customisable home screen, widgets and a much improved browser – long considered a weakness of the phone.

Shock and awe. It’s the first time I had seen that type of response midway through a presentation

“Shock and awe,” was the response in the room, said Mackie Research Capital analyst Nick Agostino. “It’s the first time I had seen that type of response midway through a presentation.”

Lazaridis said RIM aimed to make all its devices run the new operating system, although integration “takes time.”

Asked if existing BlackBerry smartphones could be upgraded, he said: “We are going to try and do our best to allow people to upgrade to 6.0.”

Analysts hope the software improvements will allow RIM to compete more effectively against the iPhone, Android phones and a slew of other smartphones that have been nibbling away at RIM’s market share.

Consumer-friendly enhancements, such as more powerful in-phone cameras and an easier-to-navigate display, are also in the offing, co-CEO Jim Balsillie said earlier.

“You are going to see very powerful extensions on our part. I don’t think you have to be too patient either,” he said.

Apps and voice upgrades

RIM’s apps store, which analysts say falls far short of Apple’s offerings, is growing rapidly with downloads doubling in last 120 days to about one million a day.

RIM also announced an upgraded version of its mobile voice system (MVS) technology on Monday, which allows for the seamless integration of a customer’s office landline and BlackBerry. The technology currently allows the two devices to work as one and a user can route all outgoing calls through his office landline.

The latest upgrade to the MVS technology will allow users to make and receive phone calls from their BlackBerry smartphones over a Wi-Fi connection.

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