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To say that the RIM BlackBerry Z10 is new is an understatement. This first-generation mobile platform boasts a high-quality touch screen, long battery life and support for speedy Long Term Evolution wireless communications.
But behind the pretty face lies an industrial strength, real-time operating system similar to what’s used in avionics, automotive computers, industrial control systems and the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet.
The BlackBerry 10 QNX-based OS was originally developed for demanding use where reliability is required and failure isn’t an option. But it’s also accessible, easy to use and somewhat different from run-of-the-mill operating systems. Those differences show up throughout the product line, from the BlackBerry Hub unified communications center to BlackBerry Flow, which enables sharing of information between apps. Touching a name on a list, for example, displays everything from that person’s contact information to their latest tweets.
The BlackBerry Z10 will be familiar to users who have experience with smartphones. Touch an icon to launch an app, wipe the screen sideways to move to a new one, and tilt to shift to a portrait or landscape view as required.
But there’s more. Move the home screen slightly to the right, and the BlackBerry Hub unified inbox of email, text messages, phone calls and alerts appears. Swipe up from the bottom to minimize an app while it continues to run. In fact, the true multitasking device runs up to eight apps at the same time.
The Z10 keyboard, designed for accuracy, offers a welcome improvement over other touch-screen typing experiences. The BlackBerry’s predictive typing learns from use and displays predicted words directly above the keys, where a flick of the finger can insert them into the text.
The BlackBerry Z10 and other devices using the same OS (such as the Q10 and Q5) take BlackBerry’s familiar security to a new level with BlackBerry Balance. This mobile device management feature enables sandboxing of users’ business and personal data.
The number of apps available for the BlackBerry 10 OS in the BlackBerry World app store
Balance divides the BlackBerry into two independent virtual devices — one for personal communications and the other for work. The virtual devices are completely separate, so information from one can’t enter the other. Balance requires BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) 10, which is already deployed in many organizations using BlackBerry devices.
The BlackBerry Z10 fully supports Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync, and because of the strong encryption that BlackBerry uses in BES, IT departments can allow secure connections through the firewall. With an add-on encryption card and BlackBerry Balance, the Z10 even supports classified information. The existing encryption extends to the BlackBerry Messenger text messaging service included in the Z10.
The combination of BES and ActiveSync make managing the Z10 relatively easy. The device fits right in with existing BlackBerry implementations, and the management software makes transferring information to the new devices quick and trouble-free.
The BlackBerry World store doesn’t contain as many applications as do app stores for other devices. However, BlackBerry has released a development toolkit supporting easy conversion of Android apps to BlackBerry 10.