Feature Article

May 15, 2013

BlackBerry Live 2013 Keynote Address, Part 1

On May 14, 2013 at 9:20am, the festivities for BlackBerry Live 2013 started. Everyone who attended the event was given a connected Z10 smartphone. The event began with BlackBerry’s CEO Thorsten Heins asking everyone to hold up and “show me your new BlackBerry Z10s in the air.” Heins thanked Brightstar for their great relationship and supplying everyone at the event with a Z10. Here is a recap of the event, and you'll find more coverage of BlackBerry Live by clicking the link.

He mentioned that at last year’s event, a lot of people thought that it would be the last BlackBerry Live and he would have to look for a new job. Heins’ response to this was, “This year feels very different than last year. Some of you said last year would be the last conference for BlackBerry. I'm happy to say, they were wrong. We're not only still here, we're firing on all cylinders as a company.”

He went on to say that the road was difficult. In one year, BlackBerry was able to bring the company to a profitable quarter. He praised January as the most successful launch for BlackBerry. The company took a lot of risks with the simple goal of moving ahead. The major risk was the complete redesign of the BlackBerry platform. This type of risk led to their prosperous quarter.

Last year, Heins promised to assemble the strongest mobile leadership team. His follow-up was “I delivered!” He mentioned that Frank Boulben was the chief marketing officer, Kristian Tear, chief operating officer, Steve Zipperstein, chief legal officer and Brian Bidulka the chief financial officer. Heins said, "If this isn't a true global leadership team, I don't know what is." The team is global as it consists of a German, a Swede, an American and a Canadian.

To show how committed everyone is to making BlackBerry 10 the mobile platform to take the industry to the next level, Heins reminded everyone that in January they held the BlackBerry 10 launch in seven simultaneous locations around the world. He said, "We will show the world that BlackBerry understands mobile better than anyone else. We live and breathe mobile. It’s part of our DNA.”

To show how they live and breathe mobile, Heins mentioned that the demonstration at the January launch of BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) was the first ever live video chat between the U.S. and the London event. I was at the launch event and saw this first hand. It was impressive.

We know that only a short while ago, the physical keyboard version of the smartphone, the Q10, was available in Europe and Canada. It will be available in the U.S. shortly. You had to know -- and I completely agree -- that Heins would mention that, “It’s safe to say that no one is really making keyboards other than BlackBerry at this point. No one makes keyboards better than BlackBerry.”

This was followed by an announcement of a brand new product. Heins unveiled the BlackBerry Q5. He didn’t really go into any details about functionality other than to say that it was built for select markets specifically the emerging markets.

The Q5 will have the QWERTY keyboard and will come in four colors. In addition to the black and white models, you will also be able to choose from red and pink. Again, the first versions will be available in Europe but the Q5 should be available in the U.S sometime this summer. They see the market for this phone to be “youthful fans.”

The next order of business was a discussion on how most companies are trying to take the desktop and squeeze it into your mobile phone. Heins’ response to this was that it does not work. You need to build specifically for mobile. His comment was, “We've built BlackBerry 10 specifically for the mobile market from the ground up. Our only focus is mobile. We don't care about the desktop experience. The mobile computing platform must be flexible, it has to support standards. The mobile platform must be secure from the ground up. We’re the only platform that fully understands this.”

Thorsten Heins wanted to make it undeniably clear that BlackBerry is all about mobile technology. They purpose of becoming BlackBerry and not staying RIM with all of the other brand names was to show the world that the company is committed and focused on all that the mobile platform can be. It is not a desktop pushed into a phone.

At the launch in January, there were about 70,000 apps available for the first version of BlackBerry 10. Now there are about 120,000 apps. That is almost double in just under four months. We have seen that some of the apps that work on the Z10 have problems on the Q10 due to the real estate of the display. Most of these conflicts are apps that were ported over from Android.

With the release of BlackBerry 10.1 there will be some new apps. The first new app that will be available is Skype. Moog, a company that produces synthesizers, will also have an app for version 10.1. There are several other apps like Twitter Black that will also be available soon.

According to Heins, “Our app revenue per user is more than double that of Google Play.” Of course, this just means that more people are buying and downloading these apps, the question is whether or not they use them after the download.

If you have never seen a Bentley Continental GT convertible drive on stage before, you would have impressed. Actually, even if you did see it, you would still have been impressed. The purpose of this was to talk about BlackBerry’s relationship with QNX. This ties back into the concept that BlackBerry is all about mobile. Before the $100,000 plus car drove on stage, Heins said, “Let me show you one example of mobile computing and what we mean by that.”

The interior of the car is beautiful. The middle console sports a 17 inch contoured display. The QNX embedded system runs the car. Through this console you can control all of the cars functions such as air, heat and so much more.

The entire platform now runs on the BlackBerry 10 platform. In addition to making phone calls and listening through the full duplex stereo, you can now have a video conference in your car. I thought that this was very impressive. The video chat was to a Z10. 

The best part of the video chat is that once the car is in motion, the video cuts out. The system is designed for safe driving. The audio continues but the video will only function when the car is in park. This is partnership that Heins refers to with QNX.

As with any device, there will be software upgrades, even for the car. These are accomplished through your smartphone. Basically, the car notifies you that there is a software upgrade through the BB 10 smartphone app. Once you have the upgrade, you do not need to be in your car, you can upgrade while you are having breakfast.

This morning’s theme was definitely car-related. Joining Heins on stage after the Bentley drove off (after being turned around on a Batman revolving car platform) was Johann Jungwirth. He is the president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz R&D, North America.

They discussed how Mercedes-Benz uses and have been using QNX in their cars. Research and development is focused on the user experience. The cloud and smartphone will play a big role in the automotive future. Jungwirth mentioned that “Now we’re talking about a different level of software performance in cars. All of the cars we are bringing to market now are connected and have the ability to be always on.”

Edited by Rich Steeves

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