Monday, December 17, 2012

Some business customers invited to test new BlackBerry 10 platform

If you're lucky, you may be one of the 120 select customers from 64 Fortune 500 companies to beta test the BlackBerry 10 smartphone, which is set to make a worldwide debut on the 30th of January. The new BlackBerry Hub experience is waiting for your reactions.

The by-invitation-only program starts today and includes participants from financial, government, insurance healthcare, manufacturing and media. It is design to give early adopters a real-life experience on the new BlackBerry 10 platform from Research in Motion, who introduced the BlackBerry in 1999.

“Beginning today, RIM will be visiting some of our enterprise and government ‘early adopters’ and getting them started with the BlackBerry 10 platform,” said Robin Bienfait, Chief Information Officer, Research In Motion. “At RIM, we’ve seen the power of our new enterprise mobility management solution first-hand, and we are thrilled to share BlackBerry 10 directly with these leading organizations.”

The testers will be able to use the key features of the new platform, such as BlackBerry Balance, the BlackBerry Hub, a new messenger and explore the dedicated BlackBerry app store, which is expected to contain around 100,000 apps ready at launch.

According to RIM, getting the new devices in the hands of its best and largest enterprise customers was an important step, as the launch draws closer.

The new BlackBerry 10 devices are expected to have Near Field Communication, or NFC capability, as "BlackBerry Tag" was announced by RIM in January in a BlackBerry OS 7.1. update. This technology will allow content sharing with a simple tap between two NFC-enabled BlackBerry smartphones.

RIM is also counting heavily on the new devices having the Federal Information Processing Standard in place, which also known as FIPS 140-2, a requirement for highly sensitive information. RIM says this certification will help government agencies deploy the BlackBerry 10 smartphones from the day of launch.

According to the BlackBerry Blog, a touchscreen model is expected to be shown at launch, but physical keyboard lovers shouldn't be worried, as a QWERTY model should be coming soon after the Jan. 30 unveiling.

The new devices will be based on an operating system built around features from QNX Software Systems, an automotive industry software maker, who BlackBerry acquired from Harman International Industries in April 2010. In September 2010, the BlackBerry Playbook was announced, along with a new QNX operating system.

We'll learn more about pricing, carriers and availability at the January launch.

Video: BlackBerry Fans Visit RIM HQ to Sneak a Peek at BlackBerry 10

Tips: 10 ways to use BlackBerry Bridge with your BlackBerry Playbook

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Monday, December 3, 2012

Smart watches connecting to smartphones could be next big thing

I have been feeling a little like Dick Tracy lately, as I walked around with a Sony SmartWatch on my arm. There is a certain cool factor about this device, which was on loan from Verizon Wireless.

The SmartWatch functions as an extension of your Andriod smartphone or tablet and will allow you to read text messages and view social network updates, as well as check the time and date. The latter should be a "duh" moment; of course it'll give you the time and date.

I was up and running in no time, which allowed me to leave the Android smartphone in my pocket for most tasks.

The SmartWatch makes a Bluetooth connection to Android devices. After downloading a SmartWatch Liveware manager app from the Google play store, you're off and running with Facebook and Twitter updates, the weather, text messages and other features that have smart watch apps available. After digging around in the Android app store, I discovered SmartWatch apps for eBay, Web Cams, games, and get this – a Bubble Level.

I got most of these apps and features to work with the SmartWatch, but keeping a connection to the Android phone is kind of flaky. You can't let them get too far apart, as in the next room, or the Bluetooth connection will be lost.

I also found that swiping the face of the SmartWatch to control the menus and features was a little hit and miss. I would prefer hard button for some of these functions, as the face of the watch is too small for big fingers to be swipe and pinch. The SmartWatch has a single button to bring up the time and date.

Some users found the charging cable tricky to navigate, as it plugs into the underside of the watch, but depend on clamping friction from the watch back against the band to hold it securely. But once you do it a couple of time, it becomes a fairly easy maneuver.

The SmartWatch is compatible with most Android smartphones and tablets. A long list on Verizon's website includes the Droids, HTC, LG, Motorola and Samsung devices. As expected, the Sony Xperia Play is also compatible.

The Sony SmartWatch is listed at $149 from Verizon Wireless and is only available for Android devices at this time. But other manufacturers are also working on iOS compatibility, along with their Android software.

The Citizen Watch Company is taking a different approach with their $495 Eco-Drive Proximity wristwatch. According to this well-known giant in wristwatches, their smart-watch timepiece will connect to the iPhone 4S and iPhone 5 through Bluetooth and features automatic adjustments for time zones, a lost iPhone search feature and email alerts with discrete vibration.

To use the smart watch features on the Citizen Proximity watch, you'll need the Proximity app in the Apple App Store. But early adopters are reporting Bluetooth connectivity problems in their reviews.

This technology is still in the early stages and I'll say the best is yet to come. As we look ahead to 2013, we can expect smart watches from MetaWatch, Martian Watches and Pebble. All of these firms have watches that are about to hit the market or are on the drawing board. These devices will be able to answers phone calls and the social networks integration will get better.

I'll predict that smart watches will be the next big thing and we won't have to reach for the smartphones as often to check emails or answer a call.

More: Apple smartwatch may be in the works

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