With the introduction of its new Torch smart phone, Research in Motion Ltd. also rolled out its BlackBerry OS 6 operating system, a key development that positions the BlackBerry line to compete with the iPhone and Android handsets in the critical market for mobile Location Based Services (LBS), according to the mobile market research ?rm iSuppli Corp.
Over the last year, location has become an increasingly important focus for RIM. The company has introduced new location services to enhance its platform, as well as acquired companies whose technology is able to enhance those services. In particular, BlackBerry OS 6 will be critical in determining how well RIM can compete in the future with Apple Inc. and especially with Google Corp.’s Android platform.
LBS offerings in BlackBerry OS 6 will determination of geographical positioning via current location information, position-dependent weather and news, and the inclusion of locality information on e-mail and texts.
Location, Location, Location
The fact that location plays an increasingly important role in any mobile platform is not lost on RIM. While developers have been able to access GPS location information on devices for some time—and use that information for navigation as well as other location based applications—RIM has worked quietly to enhance its location services portfolio.
With OS 6, not only are developers now able to access GPS, they also can use network information and Wi-Fi positioning to locate users. It is also possible for them to use geo-coding and reversed geo-coding to retrieve addresses for navigation purposes.
Similarly, the acquisition of Dash Navigation in 2009 is an indicator of the importance RIM places on location. Developers can integrate ETA information into their applications, which was part of Dash’s central value proposition of providing detailed traffic information in real time.
What RIM envisions developers will do with this location information was announced at the 2010 Mobile World Congress. The concept of Super Apps relies heavily on the integration of location information in a large number of applications. A Super App integrates content from multiple sources in order to present relevant content to the user, and location is essential to carry this out. News, weather and traffic information can be displayed according to the next calendar entry, automatically making adjustments as the user moves through the day.
With the introduction of the BlackBerry Torch on AT&T, RIM will enhance one of basic features of today’s mobile communication. Users will be able to integrate location information into text and multimedia messages.
Furthermore, RIM has developed its own BlackBerry Traffic application, which just left closed beta testing. Users are able to save locations and get real-time traffic information for an upcoming route, and ETA information can be shared with contacts via email or text message. The application is another sign of the growing importance that location plays for the BlackBerry platform, which the company hopes to integrate deeply into its platform and native applications.
A Vital Step
RIM’s BlackBerry Torch is the first BlackBerry device to feature a touch screen display and physical keyboard, and also the first to come equipped with the BlackBerry 6 OS. The new operating system gives the existing BlackBerry OS a much-needed lift, bringing it closer to the competition from Apple and Android.
Location plays an increasingly important part in the BlackBerry ecosystem, and the company has been working for some time to provide a solid framework for the wide integration of location features. With the Torch and BlackBerry 6 OS, the company is providing the first hardware and software solution for customers and developers alike to begin to utilize these new features.
In the ever-more heated competition for smart phone supremacy, the BlackBerry 6 OS is a vital step for RIM to continue to be in the race and fend off the likes of Apple and Android. Whether version 6 of the BlackBerry operating system is enough for RIM to stay on top remains to be seen.
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