Blackberry released its much awaited OS upgrade Blackberry 10 yesterday. It could be the ‘make or break’ effort from Canadian firm Research in Motion

Blackberry has been the epitome of a business smartphone for some time now. But over the past few years, the Canadian firm manufacturing it, Research in Motion (RIM), has lost precious ground to emerging mobile operating systems such as Apple's iOS and Google's Android in terms of sheer innovation.

Blackberry was not quick enough to adapt to large touchscreens at a time when the most popular phones flooding the market — the iPhones, the Samsung Galaxys and the HTC phones — were all offering large touch screens and several developers were making Apps for them.

Now Blackberry has emerged with Blackberry 10, the latest iteration of its mobile operating system, thereby promising to thrust the phone back into the competition — which is now primarily a three-way split between the leaders iOS and Android, and the dark horse Windows 8.

But based on the preliminary enthusiasm online, and also a sneak peek this journalist took at an Alpha device running Blackberry 10 at the Startup Village in Kochi, Kerala, Blackberry 10 will not only keep device enthusiasts happy but is also likely to push the envelope for all mobile operating systems.

Reinventing mobile OS

The Blackberry 10 experience promises to be unlike anything already available in the market.

While the Windows 8 user interface seems to have stolen a march on the now stale iOS and Android user interfaces with its Live Tiles, the Blackberry 10 introduces two new concepts — 'Peek' and 'Flow'.

'Peek' allows Blackberry 10 users to quickly get to their notifications centre with a simple upward swipe. In case a person is looking at an App, and wants to quickly check his notifications, he can “Peek” at it any moment he wants to. This is pretty handy because there are times when a person is immersed in an App — a game for example — where it makes it cumbersome to glance back at notifications to know if there is an email or a text message to respond to. ‘Peek’ allows Blackberry 10 users to be in touch with the notifications at a single finger swipe.

The ‘Flow’ is integrated into the overall user-interface experience and takes touch technology to a more exciting level of engagement. For example, if a person is looking at an email, the 'Flow' interface of Blackberry 10 would allow him to swipe all the way from the inbox to the email to its attachment, all at one go. To understand this better, here’s a suggestion. Look at the YouTube videos of the Blackberry World 2012 demo by Vivek Bharadwaj that went viral last year.

The Blackberry 10 also features the ‘Hub’ concept that allows users to integrate contacts, calendar, email and social Apps such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Foursquare under one umbrella. (The ‘Hub’ concept is similar to the ‘Social Hub’ seen on Windows 8 phones.)

With the Blackberry 10, RIM has also introduced a smart predictive typing interface, that recognises the words commonly used by the user and makes those words a suggestion as the user gets acclimatised to his phone. The smart assistant gets smarter the more the Blackberry is used.

Local Apps

One of the biggest challenges Blackberry 10 faces will be the availability of local Apps as the devices get ready to hit Indian shores by February-end.

Rubus Labs, Blackberry's innovation centre at the Startup Village in Kochi, has been a hub for Blackberry 10 developers for some months now. Several App developers have been able to develop directly and also port their other platform Apps on to Blackberry 10 with ease. They have already submitted their Apps to the now rebranded 'Blackberry World' so that several Indian Apps might be featured on the release day of Blackberry 10.