Mobile woes: A tepid BlackBerry, Flash still MIA, Microsoft's voice delusion

RIM, Adobe, and Microsoft all had a bad week, replete with lipstick-on-pig events

After Apple got (rightfully) savaged for a month because of its stubborn silence in the wake of its iPhone 4 antenna woes, you'd think the coast would be clear for other mobile providers. Maybe they did, too, and thus figured we wouldn't notice some really silly statements and scary facts that emerged this week. They were wrong.

Enter the BlackBerry Torch, meekly
First, there was Research in Motion, which announced the BlackBerry Torch 9800 this week as its second answer to the iPhone. (The dismal Storm was the first answer, quickly buried.) Media pundits and serious analysts agreed that the new BlackBerry is underwhelming, with its measly processor, skimpy storage capacity, and tiny screen. It doesn't threaten the iPhone, for sure -- nor most Android devices or even Palm's year-old Pre. Maybe some of the surving Windows Mobile phones are scared. (Memo to those readers angry that AT&T has an exclusive till 2011: Who cares? You won't want this phone.)

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That's just the phone; RIM also unveiled BlackBerry OS 6. RIM isn't releasing test models to the media yet, so I haven't used it in person, but what RIM showed was not encouraging. It does have a bunch of "finally" features, such as a touchscreen interface and devicewide search, both of which are old news to iOS, Android, and WebOS. Well, the devicewide search is not such old news to Android, but still. It also brings a new security model to data and app management, using an approach similar to iOS 4's.

The bottom line is that BlackBerry users will continue to lust after -- and switch to -- the iPhone and Android devices. And it's not clear RIM sees that, given the weak offerings.

Adobe mobile Flash Player remains MIA
Adobe fanboys rallied this spring to excoriate Apple for refusing to let Flash Player 10.1 run on iOS devices. It's also become a common refrain among fans and media figures that Apple's refusal to support Flash on the mobile Web is a problem for iPhone users -- except it isn't, because no mobile OS yet has Flash Player running for real.

Yes, Android OS users can download a beta version of the Flash Player from the Android Market, but it's not the final release. (It seems to work, though Flash Player beta 3 was very slow in my tests, even over Wi-Fi.) But Flash Player is nowhere to be found on BlackBerry or WebOS, much less Windows Mobile or Nokia Symbian. RIM had to admit that the Torch 9800 won't have Flash initially because the player still isn't ready. It also isn't ready for the other mobile OSes, and Microsoft has been cagey about whether Flash will be available on the forthcoming Windows Phone 7.

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