BlackBerry Live

BlackBerry has announced BlackBerry Q5 smartphone and made couple of software announcements at the BlackBerry Live 2013 event that concluded yesterday. Here’s a quick lowdown of everything that BlackBerry announced –

BlackBerry World: BlackBerry World now has over 120,000 apps for the new BlackBerry 10 OS. It has also added Skype, SoundHound, Bloomberg Hub, iHeartRadio, among others. The Skype app will ship along with BlackBerry 10.1 OS update.

BlackBerry 10.1: CEO Thorsten Heins unveiled the BlackBerry 10.1 operating system that includes support for PIN-to-PIN messaging in BlackBerry Hub, HDR photography, deeper customization of notifications, universal search actions, and has fixed few performance issues. BB 10.1, the updated version of the OS ships with BlackBerry Q10. Starting today, the BB 10.1 will be rolled out to BlackBerry Z10 users.

BlackBerry Messenger: BlackBerry also announced that BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) will support multiple platforms starting with Apple’s iOS 6 and Android 4 or higher. iOS and Android users can chat with BBM users cross platform, including multi-person chats, share photos and voice notes, and conduct BBM Groups, which allows BBM customers to create groups of up to 30 people (WhatsApp allows 55). iOS and Android users can add their contacts through PIN, email, SMS or QR code scan, regardless of platform. Android users can also able to connect using a compatible NFC-capable device.  BlackBerry claims that it plans to add support for BBM Channels (see below),  voice and video chats for the iOS and Android app. It notes that, if the app is approved by Apple and Google, the BBM app will be available as a free download in the iTunes stores and Google Play Store this summer.

We wonder whether it’s too late for BlackBerry to open up the platform. It’s unavailability on other smartphone platforms drove users to competing instant messaging apps that comes with support for cross platform messaging. Most of BBM users have already made a shift to WhatsApp or similar instant messaging apps. BBM’s voice chat feature could still attract users but then what stops WhatsApp to include a voice chat feature. Besides, the only novelty factor of using BBM that drove users to BlackBerry device in countries like India & Indonesia where BlackBerry devices are still popular will be gone by BBM’s availability on other platform. Is BlackBerry fully confident that it has better platform (BB 10) to compete with countless Android smartphones available in these markets?

BlackBerry Q5

BB-Q5

The BlackBerry Q5 comes with a physical QWERTY keyboard and has a 3.1-inch touchscreen, just like the recently launched BlackBerry Q10. While BlackBerry didn’t release any hardware details of the product, Q5 sports BlackBerry 10 OS and thus will be entitled to BlackBerry 10 goodies – BBM video chat with share screen, BlackBerry Hub, BlackBerry time shift mode and story maker, BlackBerry world, among others.

Q5 will come in red, white, black and pink color and will be launched in selected markets in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia (including the Asia Pacific region), and Latin America starting in July. The cost of the device has not been disclosed yet. BlackBerry is looking to target the emerging market with the device, so we expect the device to be a mid-range smartphone handset.

BlackBerry Channels: BlackBerry has also announced BBM Channels, a social engagement platform within BBM. This will allow users to connect with businesses, brands, celebrities, and groups. While still in beta, BBM Channels will allow users to create a channel, discover channels, view profiles, participate, monitor engagement, among others. This is something similar to Facebook pages or WeChat’s official account.

BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10 Version 10.1: Besides various announcement for consumers, BlackBerry has also pretty neat announcement for enterprises. It has announced BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10 version 10.1, an update to BlackBerry’s multi-platform Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) solution that provides device and app management for bring-your-own-device (BYOD) and corporate-owned new and old BlackBerry, iOS and Android devices. The BES 10 v10.1 brings features such as regulated level EMM, Simplified deployment for a lower total cost of ownership, dashboard & reporting, high availability,  and BlackBerry support is now included as standard. The BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10 version 10.1 server software is available as a free download at bes10.com.