New BlackBerry software and services unveiled

Research In Motion has announced new software and services for its BlackBerry platform in an attempt to staunch the bleeding of developers and customers to Apple and Android smartphones and tablets.

Mike Lazaridis, co-chief executive, told RIM’s annual developer conference in San Francisco that its customers had made BlackBerry one of the most profitable platforms for developers, with nearly 5m BlackBerry apps downloaded daily.

A week after the company came under fire for three days of widespread outages to the BlackBerry network, Mr Lazaridis announced BlackBerry BBX – a next-generation mobile platform that will combine the QNX operating system used on its PlayBook tablet with the BlackBerry smartphone operating system. Support for BlackBerry cloud services would also be included.

The announcement came hours ahead of an joint unveiling in Hong Kong with Samsung of Google’s 4.0 version of its Android operating system, codenamed Ice Cream Sandwich. This is the first version of the Android designed to work equally well on tablets and smartphones.

Apple introduced the 5.0 version of its operating system last week along with the iPhone 4s smartphone, which sold 4m units in its first three days on sale.

The BlackBerry platform trails both systems in the number of apps available. On Monday, RIM offered its users more than $100 worth of premium apps by way of apologising for the outage that took down the smartphone’s email service for three days last week across many parts of the world.

Mr Lazaridis on Tuesday described the outages as “unfortunate”.

The merging of QNX with the BlackBerry operating system follows criticism of the PlayBook, which did not feature the BlackBerry’s familiar email system or its messaging at launch.

The PlayBook was unveiled at its developer conference a year ago. This year’s event represents an opportunity for RIM to reassure its community that it is on the right track in retaining customers, offering competitive phones and making it attractive and easy for them to develop and sell apps for its platform.

RIM is trying to grow its apps offering by embracing standards beyond its own platform. It announced BlackBerry PlayBook OS 2.0 – a version of the tablet operating system with support for running Android applications as well. It said HTML5 apps – ones based on web browser standards – would run on future BBX-based devices.

It also emphasised games – announcing a test version of Scoreloop, a social gaming software that allows developers easily to add leaderboards, awards and player profiles to games they create for BlackBerry devices.

RIM’s share of the smartphone market fell to 11.7 per cent in the second quarter – from 18.7 per cent a year earlier, according to the Gartner research firm. Android grew from 17.2 to 43.4 per cent.

The first BBX-based smartphones are expected early in 2012.

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