The BlackBerry 10 mobile operating system took center stage at the opening of BlackBerry World on Tuesday, as RIM CEO Thorsten Heins gave a sneak peek of the next-generation software on a prototype smartphone called the Dev Alpha.
Research In Motion didn't say when devices running BlackBerry 10 will ship, but various reports have suggested that it will happen in October. RIM also gave away Dev Alpha devices to BlackBerry developers attending the conference in Orlando.
BlackBerry 10 is widely seen as vital to RIM's effort to halt its market share decline. IDC reported Tuesday that RIM's share of the global smartphone market was 6.7% in the first quarter of 2012, down from 13.6% in the first quarter of 2011.
Heins' demonstration of BlackBerry 10 included glimpses of a feature called "conversations," which provides multitasking on a single screen, with layers of tasks stacked on top of each other. In one screenshot example RIM provided, an email mailbox is shown like a sheet of paper on the smartphone screen, over which is laid an email sheet that the user can type on.
The Dev Alpha device has a new virtual keyboard on its 4.2-in. touchscreen. It also has a predictive text feature in which words pop up above individual letters on the virtual keyboard. Most predictive text applications, including the one on the iPhone, show the predictive word in the field of copy instead.
The camera on the Dev Alpha device allows a user to go back and forth in a photo shoot to pick the best image from a picture-taking session.
RIM also posted a a 47-second video on YouTube that shows the new swipe features in BlackBerry 10, the predictive text capability and the photo shooting feature. This slide show also provides more details on the Dev Alpha.
Developers will use the Dev Alpha device and the new developer tools to build apps for the new BlackBerry 10.
RIM released a BlackBerry 10 native software developer kit as well as the Cascades SDK, to allow developers to build graphics apps in C/C++ using Qt Markup Language. In its developers blog, RIM offered explanations of both the BB 10 native SDK and BlackBerry 10 Cascades, for its user interface.
Cascades was created by The Astonishing Tribe, a software company that RIM purchased in 2010. It offers shortcuts that automatically create code for user interface effects that developers want to include in their apps.
Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is email@example.com.