Meet Colt, the first QNX Blackberry phone

What you are looking at here is what could very well be Research in Motion’s last chance to prove its relevance in the smartphone market.

Introducing the Blackberry Colt, the first phone that will be powered by the same operating system as RIM’s flagship tablet, the Playbook. It’s due out in the first quarter of 2012 and could be exactly what the company needs to revitalize the Blackberry brand.

RIM became one of those companies that felt it was too high and mighty to fail. If you owned a business and wanted to get phones for your employees, you signed a big Blackberry contract. If you worked for a large corporation and longed for a position where you got a company phone, you knew it would be a Blackberry.

And so RIM must have felt pretty smug. That is, until Android and iPhone came along, and enterprise customers started realizing those other platforms could actually do everything Blackberry could, and more.

But even with that mounting pressure, RIM was still blind. It launched a new version of its Blackberry software last year and seemingly expected the crowd to go wild when it showed off things like “universal search” – a feature that Android users had been using for so long it seemed boring.

Beyond that, the software itself looked almost exactly like the same Blackberry interface the company had been using for years – decades, even – just with a new skin.

It wasn’t until RIM introduced the Playbook, its answer to Apple’s iPad, that something finally got through to the people in the boardroom. They needed to use a brand new operating system, built from the ground up. QNX was that operating system.

Although reviewers were ultimately frustrated with the lack of apps and the annoying need to tether it to a Blackberry phone for full access, the defining features of QNX – like multitasking, easy navigation, and efficient use of processing power – were heralded.

So there is definitely a winner hidden somewhere in the idea of a QNX-powered phone, but the question is whether or not RIM will be able to unleash it. We’ll know soon after the Colt launches in early 2012.