TORONTO – BlackBerry is confident that it’s innovating faster than its rivals and will convince skeptical mobile customers to return to the once dominant brand, a company executive said in an interview Wednesday.
It’s perhaps not surprising that Sebastien Marineau-Mes, BlackBerry’s senior vice president of software, would be feeling optimistic.
Technology blogs and newspapers released the first wave of reviews for BlackBerry’s forthcoming keyboard-equipped Q10 smartphone late Tuesday night and most were positive. The phone, due out May 1 in Canada, likely won’t sway buyers who have no interest in a keyboard, but reviewers noted that the still-significant contingent of BlackBerry lovers will be very happy with the Q10.
Meanwhile, newly released reviews for Samsung’s new flagship device, the Galaxy S4, were lukewarm. And on Tuesday, Apple hinted that it may not release a new version of its iPhone until the fall, opening a window of opportunity for BlackBerry to woo consumers with its Q10 and touchscreen Z10.
Marineau-Mes said the new BlackBerry 10 operating system will feel unique and fresh to users who might be finding that the once break-neck pace of innovation in the mobile space seems to be slowing.
“Apple’s iOS and Android have been in the market for a number of years and their velocity and the pace of their innovation is slowing down, whereas we get to come to market with a whole new operating system that reimagines the mobile experience, so it’s a great opportunity for us,” said Marineau-Mes.
Despite the Q10’s mostly positive reviews, many harped on the meagre selection of apps available on the BlackBerry platform. Marineau-Mes insisted that problem would be temporary.
“I think if you look at the app selection it’s been growing very rapidly. I think people forget that we’ve grown 30,000 or 40,000 apps since the launch of Z10 (earlier this year), we’re at well over 100,000 apps and it’s continuing to accelerate. So it’s just a matter of time before we get all of the apps people are looking for,” he said.
Marineau-Mes notes that Skype is coming to the Q10 and other apps are coming in the next few weeks.
He also hinted that BlackBerry will soon be pushing new ways to integrate its mobile operating system with other devices. BlackBerry 10 is based on software from the Ottawa-based company QNX, which BlackBerry owns. QNX has developed software for a wide range of technologies and industries — including operating systems for automobiles, nuclear power plants and HVAC systems — and BlackBerry is looking to exploit that expertise to further develop the concept of mobile connectivity.
Marineau-Mes said BlackBerry 10 is going to power the devices but it has a broad future beyond just handsets.
“It would be getting in your car and your calendar knows where you’re going and it can automatically program your car, your GPS system, get you to your destination, get traffic information. If you’re going to be late for a meeting you can automatically tell (your colleagues) as you’re on your way,” he said, adding that the company envisions the technology being non-proprietary, so it could tie in with devices made by other companies.
Marineau-Mes said this vision of the future isn’t that far off. He points out that the technology is available now, and that it’s really a matter of integration and standardization across devices.
“You’re going to see some things from us in the fall or early in 2014, and I think you’re going to see some actual real world examples of this in different markets that will be commercialized in the next six months to a year or two.”