BlackBerry Overhauls OS to Match iPhone, Droid

Research In Motion Ltd. will offer up the overhauled BlackBerry OS 6.0 next quarter, along with a new Web browser. While no one should expect the refreshes to be earth-shatteringly different, the goal is to make BlackBerrys more accessible and intuitive. The corporate-focused, static interface has long been a gripe, especially of consumers who aren’t interested in using BlackBerry for business. And that, in turn, has driven them to more flexible platforms like iPhone and Android.

“We’ll do our best,” said Co-Chief Executive Officer Mike Lazaridis, at a conference in Orlando, in making 6.0 reverse-compatible and rolled out across a number of devices, but cautioned it wouldn’t be an upgrade for all models. OS 6.0 is optimized for trackpads and toushcreen devices.

As to new functionality, he said RIM set out to “fix the things that people wanted to see fixed,” he said, quashing rumors of an entirely new look and feel. The new OS will be “very familiar to anyone who’s used the BlackBerry,” he added.

But there will be some significant, and overdue, updates. They include a real Internet browser that can show Web pages as they would look on a computer, a customizable home screen with a digital clock a la HTC Android, tile shortcuts to music, the Web and e-mail like the iPhone and a broader focus on BlackBerry App World widgets that can be downloaded over the air and are either billed to the carrier or paid via credit card. An overhauled music player will take a page from the iPhone too, and will display album art.

In short, BlackBerry is adding table-stakes smartphone functionality that consumers have come to expect out of their iPhones and Android devices.

Very little else was revealed at the conference when it comes to the OS 6.0, but it’s clear that between this announcement and the unveiling of the BlackBerry Pearl 3G on Monday, geared to the consumer market, BlackBerry is still trying to capture the hearts and minds of the non-corporate set with a highly targeted product roadmap.

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