BlackBerry Passes iOS in the US for Internet Use

BlackBerry maker Research In Motion (RIM) has followed up its acquisition of QNX Software Systems earlier this years with its just announced purchase of The Astonishing Tribe (TAT). TAT specializes in building user interfaces (UI) for smartphones and embedded systems. I’ve got some video of one of TAT’s UIs too and an overview of what this could mean for the future of the next BlackBerry operating system.

The Astonishing Tribe (TAT) Demonstrates Custom UI

How’s that for a step up from the sluggish, cluttered interfaces on too many smart phones? The demo video showcases some of TAT’s work on a device running Windows Mobile underneath the fancy pictures. Just image how much the company could do with the hardware inside the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet.

Now that both TAT and RIM have confirmed the acquisition on their company blogs, speculation has to arise on how far along the new operating system that RIM’s new QNX division is building. The OS—dubbed BlackBerry Tablet OS for lack of an official name yet—will first arrive on the PlayBook and RIM has plans to start transitioning it to its BlackBerry line of smart phones sometime in 2011. The released PlayBook SDK has little functionality besides being able to run Adobe Flash based apps through Adobe’s new multi-platform ‘Air’ software. The OS so far is pretty basic and nowhere near release. Don’t worry; it looks like that problem is solved now for RIM.

TAT’s ‘Cascades’ UI framework currently powers more than 470 million mobile devices over 200+ different models. This year, TAT’s technology is in more than 20% of touch phones sold. RIM wants to abandon its BlackBerry operating system for something new to compete against Google’s snazzy but unrefined Android and Apple’s polished but sometimes frustrating iOS. BB OS is in its sixth version now and while the update does definitely improve upon RIM’s previous touchscreen attempt—BlackBerry OS 5 on the Storm 2—it still is not on par with the quickly growing competition that has already started to pass it in sales in the US. RIM is in a bind and needs to look outside the box.

That’s exactly what the company’s three big purchases recent purchases (QNX, TAT and parts of DataViz) are meant to address. RIM is building the hardware, QNX is building the operating system itself and now TAT is crafting the actual UI that will go on top. The partial purchase of DataViz is ostensibly for the purpose of solid document support on the PlayBook tablet. RIM still wants to keep its lead in the business segment and a tablet or smartphone is useless unless it can do the job required.

Growing more excited about the final product RIM will unveil sometime early next year? 4G enabled PlayBooks will come out sometime in 2011. Let me know what you think about the TAT purchase. Could the next BB OS turn the tables on iOS and Android?

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