BlackBerry reboot: What's in, what's out, and who should keep the faith

The BlackBerry as you know it is going away, to replaced with a new OS derived from the PlayBook tablet

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The optimist in me says BBX could be as universally useful as iOS and Android with the extra flair of BBM Connect to stand out. The pessimist in me says BBX could end up being more BlackBerry-as-secure-messenger, but with a prettier face -- lipstick on a pig.

The PlayBook is the bellwether
When BBX becomes available some time in 2012 -- RIM said February 2011 for tablets a few weeks back, but now won't give an estimated arrival date -- it will start on the PlayBook tablet before it spreads to smartphones (with the addition of features related to making phone calls and sending SMS messages). The PlayBook should give a strong indication as to whether BBX is an OS worth adopting for the current tablets and the future smartphones.

If BBX on tablets is not great, it's an easy call for users and developers alike to take RIM off their lists and switch to an alternative platform. After all, you'll know the BBX smartphones won't be great, either. About the only buyers who would stick with BlackBerry under such circumstances are those who really need the level of security that BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) provides -- a small percentage of consumers.

Of course, buyers who require that level of security must make sure that BES works with the BBX BlackBerry smartphones and tablets -- it did not work with the first PlayBook. RIM says BES will play nice with BBX devices, but given the company's recent history of unfulfilled promises, I suggest you wait till you know for sure.

If BBX is great or even just on par with iOS and Android, users, developers, and IT should prepare to add it to their list of accepted mobile platforms. If that were to happen, RIM's fortunes could be bright again, even if it never regains market dominance.

The tough call is what to do in the meantime. We're months away from a BBX tablet, and maybe as much as a year away from a BBX smartphone. Buying a current BlackBerry smartphone makes no sense unless you need BES's high level of security -- today's BlackBerrys are dead-end devices. Most corporate users should get an iPhone instead, as it's the next most secure smartphone available. When they become available, Android 4 smartphones would be a valid option, as their security is not far behind the iPhone's -- but avoid the insecure Android 2.x smartphones other than Motorola Mobility's special line of business-capable Android smartphones.

The current PlayBook model promises to run BBX, but today's PlayBook is not that useful, so there's no reason to get one now. An iPad 2 is the best tablet out there, and it's well accepted by enterprises. An Android 3 "Honeycomb" tablet is also an option, though not as secure as an iPad.

In other words, if you are a BlackBerry fan and want to keep the faith, you'll need to bide your time -- and live with your current BlackBerry for now. Unfortunately, for users, a BlackBerry investment today is a sure loser. But for developers, it's an open question with an answer that won't be known until BBX -- I mean, BlackBerry 10 -- ships. If I were a developer, I would hedge my bets and also develop for iOS and Android, as those two OSes are clearly going to be around a while, and in big numbers. A revitalized BlackBerry would just add icing to those cakes.

This article, "BlackBerry reboot: What's in, what's out, and who should keep the faith," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Galen Gruman's Mobile Edge blog and follow the latest developments in mobile technology at InfoWorld.com. Follow Galen's mobile musings on Twitter at MobileGalen. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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