The 'new' BlackBerry BBX OS: Just more of the same

This week, RIM revealed its road map for BlackBerry app developers -- the same unfulfilled plan first seen a year ago

Another BlackBerry World or DevCon event, another set of promises and vision statements from Research in Motion executives as to the wonderful future in store for its dying BlackBerry platform. This week, it was BBX, the latest "new" OS for future BlackBerry PlayBook tablets and future BlackBerry smartphones. BBX, we were told, would let developers have their cake, cookies, and ice cream and eat it all, too. One day.

Nonsense -- BBX is simply more of the same strategy that RIM has been talking about, but mostly not delivering, for more than a year. Developers and IT managers need to wake up and realize that RIM won't deliver any time soon, so stop throwing good money after bad.

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Rewind to July 2010, when RIM promised that BlackBerry OS 6, introduced in the BlackBerry Torch, would be available on its flagship BlackBerrys, the then-current-model Curve and Bold. That never happened. The 6.1 update that was supposed to bring the modern Web browser and more GUI-savvy UI to existing customers was renamed BlackBerry OS 7 and didn't ship until summer 2011 -- and only for new models, not the 2010 and early 2011 models originally promised. (That apparent strategy of making customers upgrade their hardware to get even modest improvements in the OS seems to be backfiring, as people who are faced with buying a new device use the opportunity to switch to an iPhone or other competitor instead.)

BlackBerry Enterprise Server 5.03 was also announced in July 2010, promised for then-current models. It finally shipped nine months later and enables the Balance security capability in the PlayBook tablet and most BlackBerry OS 6.0-based smartphones -- as promised, even if very late. By contrast, iOS's similar capability was released a year earlier and supported by third-party mobile device management (MDM) tools for months.

Jump to March 2011, when RIM was beginning to market its as-yet-unreleased BlackBerry PlayBook tablet and said it would run Android apps on its QNX-based operating system. It turns out that wasn't true. What RIM was offering was an Android-like runtime that you could modify Android apps to work with, then recompile them to create PlayBook-compatible, Android-derived apps. That's not exactly running Android on QNX.

That option to recompile Android apps for QNX still is not real. It's promised for the second version of the BlackBerry Tablet OS (the official name for the PlayBook's QNX-based OS), which will arrive ... who knows when. The developer preview version of BlackBerry Tablet OS 2.0 -- renamed PlayBook OS 2.0 -- was released this week, so maybe in 2012.

Now let's consider the "new" BBX, which is simply a new label for what has long been in the works: a unified tablet/smartphone OS based on the the BlackBerry Tablet OS (QNX) used on its failed BlackBerry PlayBook tablet. That unification based on QNX, which RIM bought in early 2010, is a year-old promise as yet undelivered. BBX is just an official name, not a new OS. Although most of the press was fooled as to BBX's nature, users, IT admins, and developers should not be.

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