RIM Demos Future Software, But Mum On Next-Gen Handset Details

Research in Motion (NSDQ: RIMM) showed off some impressive capabilities of its next-generation BBX development platform Tuesday at BlackBerry DevCon, but didn’t provide any details regarding future products that will use that technology. Instead, developers were shown short demos of the upcoming features on RIM’s Playbook, a six-month-old tablet that has made very little headway in the market.

The QNX operating system that is at the heart of the Playbook will be renamed BBX, which brings the “best of BlackBerry and the best of QNX” to future products, said RIM co-CEO Mike Lazaridis, during a presentation to developers and the media in San Francisco. Perhaps the most impressive feature shown off during the demonstrations was the Cascades UI (user interface) technology, which RIM used to build a photo-viewing application that drops photos seemingly out of the air within the screen as the user flicks back and forth through a photo library.

But RIM also spent a lot of time talking up HTML5 development as a “bridge” between apps created for the BlackBerry operating system (the overwhelming majority of them) and apps that they’ll create for BBX. It wasn’t clear from the address whether or not HTML5 apps will be able to tap into the same native hardware capabilities that BBX apps will be able to target.

There was certainly no cornerstone announcement that would attract anyone not already developing for the BlackBerry or the Playbook. RIM has said they want to release BlackBerry handsets running the QNX operating system (perhaps now to be marketed as BBX?) in early 2012, but demonstrated all the new capabilities on the Playbook, making it hard to understand how the features will work on smaller screens.

And Lazaridis sucked any life out of the room in the first minute of the presentation, apologizing yet again for the three-day BlackBerry outage that has prompted the company to offer $100 in free apps to all BlackBerry owners. It’s a little hard to ding someone for being contrite, but reminding everyone in the audience of the outage (very few average consumers here) first thing in the morning was probably not the best way to get people excited about RIM and the BlackBerry.

There’s no question that there is some nice technology on the Playbook and within QNX. But RIM generated almost no excitement with its demonstrations among a friendly crowd, and didn’t really give anyone not already invested in BlackBerry development a reason to consider the platform.