Technology

RIM unveils prototype for BlackBerry 10 OS

New features include modified keypad and a camera that captures several frames that can be combined to create a single "ideal" picture.

ORLANDO, Fla. – The chief executive of Research In Motion (TSX:RIM) stood before the developers who could play a crucial role in the company’s future on Tuesday and gave them a first-look at the new BlackBerry 10 operating system.

The widely anticipated unveiling at its annual BlackBerry World conference in Orlando centered on some awe-inspiring technological developments sandwiched between pounding club music and a heavy dose of flashing spotlights that could send any raver into a tizzy.

The showcase was intended to get fickle programmers onside as RIM tries to recover from numerous blunders over the past year, including flagging sales, a woefully underdeveloped apps store and criticism that it hasn’t released a new smartphone in ages.

“We’re taking our time to make sure we get this right,” CEO Thorsten Heins told developers shortly before revealing the BlackBerry 10 prototype.

“I know how much hard work went into this,” he added.

Heins, who marked his 100th day atop the smartphone maker on Tuesday, then pulled a touch-screen device from his pocket installed with the BlackBerry 10 OS in its beta version.

“It’s working, and it’s working well,” Heins reassured the crowd.

“That’s why we took the decision to give it to our developers today because we want them to get going on this.”

While the new operating system is still in its test stages, Heins led the audience through a tour of some of the flashier new features of the system.

Overall, the interface shared a familiarity with the interface of the popular Apple iPhone and Android devices, though there were several new features that made it different.

Some of the highlights included a modified touch-screen keypad that adapts to common words each user types, and then allows them to select the full words with a single swipe of the screen.

But it was the smartphone’s camera that really seemed to excite the audience. It has a feature that captures several frames of time which can be combined to create a single “ideal” picture. For example, if one person was blinking in a group photo, they can be replaced with an image of their face taken moments earlier with their eyes open.

When the company demonstrated fixing one picture of a woman, opening her eyes and tacking a smile on her face, the audience gasped and burst into applause.

Each developer will go home with the new operating system on a prototype device, a move that will allow developers to start building applications for the new platform.

The beta version of the operating system will be shared “key carrier partners as well,” Heins said.

“I’m very, very confident we will be there later this year with an exciting product,” he added.

This year’s BlackBerry World conference began with a different tone than in recent years. Once considered a victory lap for executives, this year is about reaffirming the company’s history and showing developers that RIM can still be an innovator.

The strategy comes amid questions about the future of the Canadian technology firm that has been the centre of takeover rumours in recent months.

While some rumours suggested that RIM would surprise the audience with a slate of new hardware, the company said before the event that it doesn’t plan to showcase the product until its ready, sometime in the latter half of 2012.

Financial analysts are mostly absent from the conference, as RIM opted to cancel the presentations and seminars that specifically catered to them. Instead, RIM said it will have a separate analyst event timed for the release of the BlackBerry 10 models later this year.

Shares in Research In Motion were down 73 cents, or 5.1 per cent, to $13.40 on the Toronto Stock Exchange in afternoon trading.