BlackBerry announces new BBX OS

Research In Motion’s announced its next operating platform for the BlackBerry, BBX, which it hopes will help it fight off competition from Apple and Android – and perhaps distract attention from last week’s massive service outage.

The new BBX OS is designed from the ground up, says the company, but combines QNX, currently used in the PlayBook tablet, with the existing BlackBerry OS. It will power both types of device.

The BBX platform will support BlackBerry cloud services and development environments for both HTML5 and native developers, says RIM. It will also support applications developed using current tools for the BlackBerry PlayBook, including Native SDK, Adobe AIR/Flash and WebWorks/HTML5, as well as the BlackBerry Runtime for Android Apps.

“With nearly five million BlackBerry apps downloaded daily, our customers have made BlackBerry one of the most profitable platforms for developers,” says Mike Lazaridis, RIM president and co-CEO.

“At DevCon today, we’re giving developers the tools they need to build richer applications, and we’re providing direction on how to best develop their smartphone and tablet apps as the BlackBerry and QNX platforms converge into our next generation BBX platform.”

RIM’s also announced a series of developer tool updates, including WebWorks for BlackBerry smartphones and tablets, the Native SDK for the BlackBerry PlayBook and a developer beta of BlackBerry PlayBook OS 2.0 with support for running Android applications.

The company presumably hopes to increase the number of apps it can offer – currently way fewer than its competitors.

The announcement has left observers underwhelmed, on the whole, particularly as there’s no word on when BBX-based smartphones will actually appear. And the company has quite a job ahead of it if it wants to fight off the competition.

“RIM has been trying to moe into the consumer marketplace. That is one key mistake. They have no brand name there. They have unsuccessfully competed with Apple and Google. This new software will not help them there,” says tech analyst Jeff Kagan.

“To win with Apple and Google you have to understand and practice brand management, marketing, public relations and advertising well. RIM has never had to do that. So that is a blank spot for them. That is the area they need to update first.”

The company currently has just 11.7 percent of the smartphone market, according to Gartner, compared with 43.4 percent for Android.