BlackBerry Live Keynote: Q5, BBM News, and More

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Though at times it seemed that the keynote at this year’s BlackBerry Live conference was merely a platform for BlackBerry to convince consumers and shareholders that the company is doing just fine, there was still a fair share of significant reveals for the company to announce.

BlackBerry Q5BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins kicked off the show, taking to the stage and immediately stating that the company is “in a good place” before talking about the new BlackBerry 10 OS. “Let me be clear,” said Heins. “BlackBerry 10 as a platform is entirely new. We pulled it together in two years and we’re committed to making BlackBerry 10 the OS to take us into the next generation of mobile computing.”

After bringing up the launch of the first wave of BlackBerry 10 devices, the Z10 and Q10, Heins said that the Q10, which is already available in the UK and Canada, will be launching on US carriers this summer. That wasn’t all, however, as Heins quickly followed up with his first big reveal of the day, which was that the first major update to the BlackBerry 10 OS, version 10.1, will launch with the US Q10 and will begin rolling out to Z10 users today.

Also launching this summer was the keynote’s sole device reveal: the BlackBerry Q5. Like the Q10, the Q5 is equipped with a full QWERTY keyboard. Heins, however, stated that the Q5 is intended for emerging markets and is therefore likely to sport slightly more modest specs than the Q10.

Heins also gave an update on the state of the BlackBerry World app selection, boasting that the store now features over 120,000 apps — a number that is creeping dangerously close to that of BlackBerry’s current competing platform, Windows Phone.

Much like Windows Phone, BlackBerry is in the process of acquiring the big names before picking up the lower-profile apps, with one of the first being Skype, which will be offered to customers once they update to BlackBerry 10.1. Other major apps are either currently available or coming soon to BlackBerry (including SoundHound, I Heart Radio, and the Moog Synthesizer, which is coming this week).

In what appeared to be an attempt to keep attendees around for the duration of the session, major announcements were scattered across the entire keynote, leaving lulls in between. Following Heins’ state of the union regarding BlackBerry World, the keynote’s focused meandered slightly as he discussed the application of BlackBerry 10 in other markets, including healthcare, education, and auto. The latter resulted in a Bentley being driven out onto the stage to discuss BlackBerry 10 integration in cars, followed by a chat with Mercedes Benz President and CEO Johann Jungwirth.

BlackBerry BalanceThings got back on the rails shortly thereafter, however, and COO Kristian Tear took to the stage to announce that the global launch of BlackBerry Enterprise 10.1 will take place this week. “BYOD and platform mobility are facts of life,” said Tear. “We know you’ll be coming in with more than one device. You need one solution to manage them all.”

Aside from securely connecting corporate system to mobile devices (and granting IT control), the goal of BBES 10.1, said Tear, was to introduce lower cost of ownership with easy implementation and updating processes. As such, the upgrade to BBES 10.1 for existing devices — which don’t even have to be BlackBerry, as iOS and Android are also supported — will be free for a limited time. The BlackBerry Secure Connection will also be expanding to other platforms, with the Secure Work Space feature currently in extended beta and launching this summer.

This need for security complicates things, however, resulting in many enterprise users having to use two devices: one for work and one for play. BlackBerry’s solution to this dilemma is BlackBerry Balance, which balances the need for privacy and security with the fact that enterprise users have personal lives, as well. “BlackBerry has security ‘baked in’ from the ground up. We have always given you control over device policies. Just turning things off doesn’t help you,” said Tear. “You need a way to use the same device for both work and personal needs.”

So with BlackBerry Balance, users’ devices are split into two distinct tabs: “Personal” and “Work,” which are both indicated at the top of the screen. Users can tap the tabs to shift over to the corresponding content, giving them access to things like their company’s network, email, and contacts in addition to their personal contacts, chats with friends and family, personal internet browsing, etc. Each side even has its own BlackBerry World: one for personal apps and one for enterprise apps, making managing and securing corporate apps also an option. This way, said Tear, users can bring their own device to work and enjoy both enterprise-level protection and personal use.

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