Research In Motion (RIM) co-CEO Mike Lazaridis this morning unveiled the BlackBerry-maker's next major operating system overhaul, dubbed "BlackBerry 6," at its ninth annual Wireless Enterprise Symposium (WES) in Orlando, Fla.
Lazaridis said the new OS is meant to both feel familiar to loyal BlackBerry user, but also new and fresh. RIM spoke with many customers and BlackBerry users before starting on BlackBerry 6 for feedback from the people who actually use BlackBerry devices in their everyday work and personal lives, according to the co-CEO.
BlackBerry 6 is the "biggest step forward in BlackBerry history," Lazaridis said.
BlackBerry 6 "had to feel fresh and familiar; novel, but recognizable; easy to use, yet powerful; fun and approachable" according to Lazaridis.
BlackBerry 6 features crisp graphics, smooth transitions, a new tool that lets users search their devices and the Web directly from home screens, multi-touch support for touch-screen devices, and all "core apps" have been redesigned to feel more modern, Lazaridis said.
The BlackBerry's media applications have also undergone a makeover in BlackBerry 6; the music, video and camera apps are all revamped.
And an entirely new app helps users manage their various RSS feeds and social networking services, Lazaridis said.
The RIM chief highlighted its much-anticipated Webkit browser, which he says features a variety of new navigation features, as well other performance and aesthetic enhancements, including tabbed browsing. The new Webkit browser is also expected to support Flash for viewing online video.
And finally, Lazaridis set a rough date for the release: Next calendar quarter, or fall 2010.
Unfortunately, RIM didn't mention any required technical specifications for BlackBerry 6, i.e., what amount of memory and/or what type of processor will be required to run the new OS. So it's unclear whether or not existing BlackBerry devices will get BlackBerry 6 or if the OS is restricted to "new" devices.
Rumors suggest a handful of current RIM smartphones will get BlackBerry 6, including the Bold 9650 and 9700, Pearl 9100/9105 and both BlackBerry Storm devices. All of these devices have at least 256MB of application memory, so this could be a minimum amount of necessary memory.
Check out RIM's BlackBerry 6 video from WES for an early look at BlackBerry 6.