Yesterday I was lucky enough to be invited to the BlackBerry Elite Program event that took place at RIM's UK HQ in Slough. The Elite Program has been set up to identify and empower the most passionate people in the BlackBerry community with information and opportunities for them to stay connected with BlackBerry. I'm not in the program myself but I suppose I got special treatment as we have the number one fan site.
And why is RIM doing this you may ask? Simple - they want to give something back to BlackBerry fans and this is just one way of doing it. Although the team of 'Elites' is quite small, RIM flew in its members from Germany, Northern Ireland and Scotland as well as those who are in England and could drive or get the train.
The purpose of the day was to give the team an insight into BlackBerry 10 before the official launch on January 30th. As you can imagine the tension and excitement before things kicked off was pretty massive. BlackBerry 10 has been a long time in the making and although the members of the Elite Program have been in full support of the new OS on Twitter and Facebook it was the first time that many of them had seen BB10 in the flesh for the first time.
So after we had lunch and got the opportunity to chat with one another, we gathered in a room where things were going to kick off. Most of the afternoon comprised of demonstrations of features within BlackBerry 10 and we were lucky enough to test for ourselves these things on what appeared final hardware - which rocked. I had used this hardware some months ago but there were many changes within the software and things are now super smooth. Many of the applications that we played with I can't mention here unfortunately and you will have to wait for those to be unveiled on the 30th, but what I can say is I am confident the world is going to be stunned by BlackBerry 10. The new OS is truly amazing and not only will it be a superb new experience for those coming back to BlackBerry, it is also a beautiful transition for us current users and it will continue to make us 'BlackBerry People' hugely efficient at what we use our smartphone for.
We also had the chance to get hands on with the new accessories that will launch with the first BlackBerry 10 handset. As you would imagine some cases will feature in the range but RIM also has a selection of other products up their sleeve, but I'm not going to spoil things - you can wait for those to be shown off at the end of the month. While the main focus for RIM has clearly been on devices and software it was wonderful to see the level of thought and quality that they have put into the new accessories. Sorry for being a tease but good things come to those who wait!
Overall the day was a big success. Not only did Rob Orr (Managing Director of RIM UK) come and speak to the group but we also got a video message from RIM CEO Thorsten Heins. To see the support of the main man to the BlackBerry Elite Team was the perfect example of how much BlackBerry fans mean to the company. I certainly wasn't expecting this and it was a great surprise. We also got an extra bonus - football legend Thierry Henry popped in to check out BB10 and mingle with RIM staff. As you can imagine, there was an element of excitement in the air.
The members of the BlackBerry Elite program had a fantastic day with RIM. Each of them were amazed with BlackBerry 10 and I can guarantee they will all remain BlackBerry 10 users for a long time to come. They will also all be at the BB10 launch event in London so the day wasn't just a one time thing - the Elite program is ongoing.
Respect also goes out to RIM UK for organising the day. It is a great move giving something back to the fans and making them feel so special. Roll on the 30th - you will be amazed!