BlackBerry's still the number one smartphone platform in the States, but it's losing ground in the consumer market to iPhone and Android thanks to a relatively stagnant development history—BlackBerry looks pretty much the same now as it did three years ago, an unforgivably slow pace in the smartphone world.
The upcoming BlackBerry 6 OS is the biggest change for BlackBerry in a long time, bringing all kinds of new features to compete with flashier consumer OSes like Apple iOS, Google Android, Palm/HP WebOS, and even the not-yet-released Microsoft Windows Phone 7. We got a first look at BB6 back in late April, but we've been waiting for a video demo—and RIM just released their first promo. Check it out below.
The first things I notice are the nods to design and UI work of other OSes. There's the horizontal scrolling through menus, used by Sony but most successfully by Microsoft in the Zune, Kin, and Windows Phone 7 OSes. There's the pop-up menu for contacts—tap a contact name and it'll offer an array of ways to contact that person, like text message, phone call, email, or IM—which is one of Android's best ideas. There's the vaguely WebOS card-like pull-down menu for tabs in the new browser. But it's all still unmistakably BlackBerry, for better and for worse.
There are some nice new features as well—I like the new BlackBerry Messenger's easy attachment option, so you can send pictures, videos, or music from BlackBerry to BlackBerry. The music player looks fine, certainly better than Android's somewhat ugly interface. I'd like to see a revamped BlackBerry App World marketplace, but we haven't gotten much information yet as to how App World will be altered in the new version of the OS.
The new interface looks nice, if it's really as smooth as the demo indicates. The BlackBerry Storm line, the first touch-based BlackBerry, suffered from lag and slowdown, and hopefully RIM has ironed out the kinks to make BlackBerry 6 as smooth as possible—especially if they really do have plans for BB6 beyond smartphones.