RIM Dishes Up a Taste of BlackBerry With a Side of Black Eyed Peas

BlackBerry maker Research In Motion has released a sneak peek of its upcoming new operating system refresh and appears to be taking pains to suggest just how fresh and hip it is.

To the pounding beat of “Boom Boom Pow” by the Black Eyed Peas, the brief video features three characters dancing — two wearing business attire and the third dressed casually — while transparent images of touchscreens depicting a music player, contact applications and social networking apps slide and zoom in the foreground.

The company hasn’t released specifics of the operating system on its website, and the E-Commerce Times’ efforts to reach a spokesperson for comment were unsuccessful.

The new OS features an updated Web-browsing experience, according to ABI Research analyst Michael Morgan, with a webkit-based browser under the hood, Flash and HTML 5 support, and some sort of social networking aggregation feature. Scheduled for release in the third quarter of this year, the new OS also features more integrated support for touchscreen devices, although RIM has yet to announce any such devices in the pipleline beyond its existing Storm handhelds.

Not a Minute Too Soon

“This new OS needed to happen. It had to happen,” Morgan told the E-Commerce Times. “It brought them up to what I’d call ‘basic table stakes’ for a smartphone today.”

That’s critical, because BlackBerry market share has been slipping — in the U.S. at least — as the iPhone and a horde of Android devices quickly gain ground, particularly among consumers.

At the beginning of 2009, RIM held a 56 percent market share in smartphones in the U.S., according to Morgan. By the end of the year, that number had slipped to 42 percent. Meanwhile, Apple jumped from 25 percent to 32 percent.

And Motorola went from nothing to 12 percent in 2009 with the launch of its Android-based Droid.

With more new Android devices on the way, as well as Nokia’s new N8 smartphone and Windows Phone 7 Series devices, the new OS puts RIM in a defensive position. It’s going to have to work to hold onto its existing customers, particularly among enterprise users whose eyes may be wandering toward all the glitzy smartphones coming to market, Morgan said.

“This definitely will keep the enterprise people happy. They’re trying to pack a little candy in there,” he said.

Uncertain Prospects

RIM does have an ongoing advantage overseas, particularly in developing markets, where it can leverage its experience in the U.S. at making hits with low-cost devices such as the Curve, which became a de rigueur texting tool for cost-conscious young users, Morgan observed.

Apple, the second-ranking smartphone provider in the U.S., can’t match RIM in that space, he noted, but it probably doesn’t want to.

The new BlackBerry OS may do little to draw new customers into the fold.

“They can only use it to keep their current market share from eroding,” Morgan said, sounding somewhat ominous. “Meanwhile, everyone else is ramping up.”

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