Apple and Google have Nothing to Fear From BlackBerry 10, But Microsoft Does

Thorsten Heins, CEO of the company formerly known as Research in Motion and now named simply BlackBerry, has kept his core promise to retool the BlackBerry OS for the modern era.

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Syncing music, videos, photos, and documents over a USB connection is straightforward with the BlackBerry Link app for your Windows PC or Mac, as is backing up your device, but it's no iTunes. When you play music and then switch to an app or the Hub, there's no simple way to pause the music as there is in iOS (via the multitasking dock) or Android (via the notification tray). Instead, you need to change the volume to display a pop-up box that has the Pause control.

The BlackBerry App World app store has a fairly small number of apps, a few dozen serious entries and a similar number of games. BlackBerry says that about 40 percent of BlackBerry 10 apps are wrapped version of Android apps, not apps really designed for the new OS. That may quickly fill App World, but Android apps as a whole are not that sophisticated, so it remains to be seen how app-oriented the BlackBerry 10 OS will be as opposed to messaging-oriented.

The BlackBerry 10 OS has a Siri-like feature called Voice Control that lets you speak some commands for it to execute, such as "take a note." The voice is harsher than Siri's, and the commands more limited, but it does work. Press the center button in the volume rocker to start it.

The BlackBerry 10 OS's Web browser is fast as promised. The browser has the bookmarking features you'd expect, plus the Reader feature that Apple debuted in iOS and OS X to show just the text of a Web page when desired.

The WebKit-based browser is also the most HTML5-compatible browser yet, according to the HTML5test.com benchmarks. It scores 485 points out of a possible 600, versus 386 for iOS's Safari, 390 for Android's Chrome (the browser in the Google Nexus series), 434 for Android's Browser (which other vendors' Android devices use), and 320 for Windows Phone 8's Internet Explorer. In fact, the BlackBerry 10 browser beats all desktop browsers as well.

But it sometimes has trouble displaying images, not consistently sizing them properly to the mobile screen as iOS and Android do. And although it did well with AJAX sites I tested, it had trouble with some JavaScript menus in that it would not keep them open if the item that opens the menu is itself a link. Overall, this is a top-notch browser missing only the kinds of sharing and sophisticated bookmark organization found in iOS's Safari.

Why Microsoft should worry

Given the superior user experience and capabilities of iOS and Android, it's unlikely any of them would switch to BlackBerry willingly. But even with its flaws, the BlackBerry 10 OS is better than Windows Phone 8, which is less capable and less refined. And let's be honest: Blackberry 10 OS is a good mobile OS in its own right.

The combination of the BlackBerry faithful eagerly awaiting a modern BlackBerry OS (which the BlackBerry 10 OS certainly is), a portion of the people yet to commit to a smartphone platform, and the disgruntled Windows Phone 7.5 users who found out after the fact that their smartphones would never run Windows Phone 8 could be enough to double BlackBerry's current sales to 10 percent of the market -- that's enough to keep BlackBerry in business.

After all, the BlackBerry 10 OS matches Windows Phone's best feature (the People app), outclasses it in most other areas, and fits better into a security-conscious corporation than Windows Phone does. And the Z10 is a nice piece of hardware.

This story, "Apple and Google have nothing to fear from BlackBerry 10 -- but Microsoft does," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in mobile technology at InfoWorld.com. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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This story, "Apple and Google have Nothing to Fear From BlackBerry 10, But Microsoft Does" was originally published by InfoWorld.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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