BlackBerry CEO reveals mid-range Q5, Channels, BBM coming to iOS, Android

The BlackBerry faithful and converts alike gathered in Florida today to watch BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins deliver his first keynote since the BlackBerry 10 launch back in January this year.

So how has the troubled smartphone maker fared since its rebirth? “Some said last year’s conference would be the last for BlackBerry. They said it would by my first and last time on stage. I’m happy to say they were wrong,” said Heins. “This year feels very, very different. It’s been an incredible year for BlackBerry, there’s still a lot to do, but man, we have reached solid ground with this company.”

Heins opened BlackBerry Live 2013 by touting BlackBerry’s recent profitable quarter — the first in about a year for the Canadian company — and commented on the company’s momentum.

A visibly more relaxed Heins revealed that BlackBerry World now contains 120 000 apps, up from 70 000 at launch.

The BlackBerry Q10, BlackBerry’s second BlackBerry 10 handset has since launched in 14 countries, is undergoing technical acceptance testing at 200 carriers and will roll out in the US in June.

The new BlackBerry 10.1 operating system which is pre-installed on the Q10 will start rolling out to early adopters and their Z10s, today. This means that Skype — promised at the January launch — will finally be available in BlackBerry World as users start updating their OS software.

On this momentum Heins unveiled the BlackBerry Q5, a mid-range Blackberry physical keyboard device “built for emerging markets.” The device will launch in red, black, white and pink colours.

With 60 million BBM users BlackBerry is also launching BBM Channels, a social networking feature within BBM that allows users to create and share posts that can be shared with all of their channel subscribers — it’s essentially a closed-off Twitter. Heins also revealed that BBM is coming to iOS and Android platforms — messaging and group features will launch initially, with Voice, Screenshare, Video and Channels rolling out throughout the year.

BlackBerry has been touting BlackBerry 10 as a “mobile computing platform” and today, Heins did his part to decipher this rather cryptic statement. The core for BlackBerry 10, QNX is one of the world’s most popular in-car operating systems. By means of a Bentley Continental, BlackBerry demonstrated how a Z10 could be used to update the software for the in-car system — called BlackBerry 10 in the demonstration.

Heins also showed off a custom dash panel running BlackBerry 10 that performed a BBM Video call — he was quick to point out that video is disabled when the car is in motion.

No sales or shipping figures were revealed, but today’s show came off as a positive signal for the recovering smartphone maker.



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