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CrackBerry Podcast 063: BlackBerry Roadmap 2011 - PlayBook and Phones Galore!

Listen Now!

By Kevin Michaluk on 28 Jan 2011 04:31 pm EST
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CrackBerry Podcast

The last couple of weeks have been full of leaks regarding the 2011 BlackBerry Smartphone roadmap, so we had a LOT to talk about on this CrackBerry Podcast. But before we get to the phones, we first spend a bunch of time talking BlackBerry PlayBook, going through many of the frequently asked questions that have been popping up in the forums. 

This was a fun episode and definitely one you'll want to listen to (aka, if you've never listened before, this is a good one to start off on!). The PlayBook conversation dominates the first half of the show, so for all the phone talk you'll want to jump to 44m15s into the show. On the phone front, we're talking BlackBerry Bold Touch, BlackBerry Curve Touch, monaco (full touchscreen), Torch 2, next generation Curve and more. It's a whack load of phones.

Last but not least, we're happy to have Craig back on this episode, joining Adam, Bla1ze, Joseph and myself. We had fun recording this one, so hope you enjoy the show!

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Reader comments

CrackBerry Podcast 063: BlackBerry Roadmap 2011 - PlayBook and Phones Galore!

51 Comments

Hi Kevin, I think the word you were looking for regarding the kernel is Microkernel as opposed to Monolithic Kernel.

you were absolutely correct. the QNX microkernel OS architecture is the key to scaling easily to multicore environments beyond just 2 cores (think 8, 16, 32, etc.) in the future. the OS's small footprint (hence the microkernel name...) should provide an advantage over competitors attempting to keep up as chip technology adds more cores each year. will be interesting to see how both iOS (hybrid kernel) and Android (monolithic) address this issue.

I should have said clearer...you were describing the monolithic kernel correctly. I meant the word you were looking for when you were talking about QNX os is microkernel.

I should have said clearer...you were describing the monolithic kernel correctly. I meant the word you were looking for when you were talking about QNX os is microkernel. In any case, good podcast. :-)

To add to the discussion on whether or not PlayBook will have a PIN.

In the API:

qnx.system.Device.device
has an accessible PIN field

"[read-only] Returns the PIN of the device"

So it's pretty safe to say PlayBooks will have PINs of some sort.

you guys do a great podcast!!! I've tried listening to other and couldnt make thru... Keep up the great work and keep them coming!!!

So how is that PB Kevin LOL. I love the pod cast and have been listening for a while now, and blaze is right this is the first line that I can see myself buying all of them (even though I have done it before). Yes we need more pod cast and with Craig and Joseph on them makes it like listening to the pied pipers of pod casting. Great job

Couple thoughts on an issue that was raised during the podcast:

1) Q: Why no native email/calendar/contacts client at launch?

A: RIM wants to launch the Playbook into the market ASAP for several reasons (gain dev community traction, regain mindshare with both enterprise & consumers, etc.), and excluding these features means RIM can bypass 2 very important hurdles that would slow the launch down: (i) carrier certification and (ii) waiting for IT managers to test and qualify a new device w/in their environment. Since the Playbook will not have a PIN of its own (at launch, at least...), it will not technically have its own BES/network connection, but will rather leverage the connection of the "companion" BB device (this is well understood), so it will therefore not require any additional qualification/certification. Enterprise customers love this, and RIM wants to launch this new product in an area of traditional strength (the enterprise...) and build out to the consumer market once their position has been solidified. This has always been RIM's "go-to-market" strategy, which is markedly different from Apple, but good to see RIM following its own strategic path, in my opinion.

Also, while this appears to be quite a drawback in the mind of some consumers, the fact that buyers of the Playbook won't need to take a second dataplan is a huge benefit. Here again, RIM is delivering something that Enterprise IT depts desperately want as they have zero desire to pay for a second dataplan for all of their "mobile workers" who currently carry a BB! Also, the stats on Wifi vs. 3G use of iPad supports RIM's views on this issue as the vast majority of iPad sales have been Wifi-only, and in the cases where iPads with embedded 3G modems were purchased, the usage on those devices has been very very low (AT&T admitted as much during it 4Q earnings call). In sum, the vast majority of consumers have absolutely no appetite for a 2nd dataplan (and why would they??).

So the point is that RIM wants to: (i) get the device into market as quickly as possible, and (ii) target those segments that are RIM's longtime strongholds (Enterprise/IT dept and consumers who currently carry a BB). This go-to-market" approach ticks all of those boxes. Rest assured they will enable these features shortly thereafter as they look to expand Playbook's addressable market.

Amen to that! I'd be pissed if I needed a data plan to run this thing.

My question is will this thing be able to run outlook express through the web browser? if yes I really don't understand the email stuff. I can barely tell the difference between outlook and outlook express anymore.

I think the WiFi version may not have a pin, but the 3g/4g one will definitely have a pin and come with more of the BlackBerry tools. It just doesn't make too much sense for the WiFi version. People wanting BBM on the WiFi version, if there is no WiFi around and your messages are queued that could cause a lot of issues.

Battery life on Playbook will be solid. The whole point of multicore apps processors is to allow equal or better performance (in terms of MHz) without crushing the battery as you would in a single core environment. Laws of physics determines that a 2x in voltage on a single core leads to a 4x in work rate (measured in MHz). Running a processor at high MHz drains battery quickly, so if you can split the work over multiple processor cores (i.e. 2 cores each running at 500MHz rather than a single core at 1GHz), the power savings are substantial. This becomes incredibly powerful as we move to 4,8 and even 16 cores in the future.

And yes, Kevin is correct in his understanding of the power of QNX. The microkernel structure allows for all of these processes to be "sandboxed", so if a Flash app crashes it won't bring down the other tasks that are running concurrently on the device.

QNX also has the ability to scale to multiple core environments in a much easier fashion than its monolithic kernel competitors (iOS and Android). Each core needs a separate copy of the OS, so as we scale to 16 core environments in the future, that means 16 copies of the OS. That implies huge memory requirements and messaging overhead within the system. The smaller the kernel the better in those environments. This is why RIM is so excited about the future roadmap powered by QNX. They have a solution that will take them quite a long way as we move into the multicore processor world for mobile devices.

Absolute piece of Junk, have had four Blackberry Storms, call drop is constant when everyone else has service. Internet service is so cumbersome it might as well not have the option. The only thing this phone does semi well is get emails. Ten of my colleagues that also have the phone are dumping it for the Droid as soon as better Verizon 4G phone options come out. Save yourself a lot of headaches, don't even think about a Blackberry, they will be a thing of the past very soon....

typical answer from a blinded droid fanboy. Blackberry may be behind now but they were once the king not to far back and they will again in the not so far future. Not one company in the industrial world has been on top and kept it there.

Key words "I have had four BlackBerry Storms". Of course you dislike BlackBerry! The Storm wasn't the greatest device, as has been said many many times. 

RIM and BlackBerry aren't going anywhere. If BlackBerry isn't for you, that's cool. However, you can't say for everyone that they aren't great devices, and that RIM doesn't have a future.

There isn't just one smartphone out there that is perfect for every person. It's just a matter of finding and using what works for you. It's too bad your BlackBerry experience was based on the Storm though. I think you may feel differently had you tried a different device. :)

This is coming from a person that knew nothing about blackberries and would swear against them until he bought his first in 2008. we all have our preferable devices and we all knew your disastrous experiences about your storm before you came on the comments section and decided to say it.

When it all boils down, Blackberry has had to work very hard and strategically to transform its classic and "traditional" identity. Granted those changes were not revealed quickly for most but they are still gauged for explosive growth and domination within the next few years.

If you aren't happy with blackberry save your comments for someone who would actually care. No one told you to buy a company's first touchscreen phone that thrived in keyboard design.

Not sure what you are saying is Junk, the playbook or the new phones or the podcast ;)

I don't know what the point of saying people are switching to Droid, or apple for that matter, is. Is this supposed to scare people? To scare RIM even? The point about people who switch is they switch, which means they'll switch back if RIM makes a product they like. That's RIM's objective anyway, so are these comments supposed to change something?

Yes you can say right now RIM does not make phones that interest you. Fine. But if you take the big picture you should see that Apple was in the can until the bought (not developed) a new OS. Google bought (not developed) Andriod and RIM has bought QNX. Now it'll take time to get everything going so the question in the meantime is are these phones competitive enough to keep RIM in the game? I'd say yes. Not cutting edge, true, but they are allowing BB users to get more of the non-phone/email experiences of other products while keeping the lead on email.

I also think it's smart not to try to leap-frog on specs because #1 the OS is old so they aren't going to get credit for being cutting edge anyhow "Ya it has a 20 MP camera but the OS isn't as good as android blah blah. But more important #2 is they want to make these phones flow around the world fast and many markets aren't there yet on paying big bucks for cutting edge phones in high volumes.

To be honest I don't care if RIM is ever the leader in smart phones as long as they can keep knocking down the lag times. if they ever get to where they can match apple or HTC within 6 months (on the gee whiz stuff, they are already better phone/email devices) the effective time is zero since contracts last a lot longer than 6 months.

And finally, QNX wasn't for sale 3 years ago as it was sitting inside of Harman. Tough to fault RIM for not buying QNX sooner as it simply wasn't an option. RIM has been thinking about a proper multicore OS strategy for quite sometime and they bought QNX the day it came for sale back in April 2010.

yes I too feel the same way as it is foolish to think that way and Android stated picking pace only last year, it would have taken some time for RIM to understand the competition, progression of the hardware technology, assess the future and then foresee some changes in it's agenda, and then the question of product acquisition would have aroused, then evaluation of products and finally negotiation and acquisition. All this would take a fair amount of time. Also I would think RIM would have had kicked started the acquisition process at least 2 years ago and I also think they might have evaluated a lot of products like QNX before they acquired QNX. Whatever may be the reason RIM is doing a good job lately and the turn around of things has been amazing so far. If you look at Nokia, they are still struggling and they are quite not sure which way they need go Win7? or Meego? or Android? or Symbian?

Kevin I agree with your theory that The Monaco will not come to market with the Storm name, and because of that, this device may go to all carriers.

I personally feel like if they haven't gotten rid of the Storm name entirely, that they'll save the Storm3 for a QNX device...

Craig sounds pretty foolish on this podcast, I have to say. Doesn't seem to understad the google business model. Also the NFC file transfer thing seems pretty likely to me He says you need to be within and inch, and that is exactly what that video shows.

agreed, 10" distance what is required for a file transfer using NFC and not 1/2" as stated in Podcast

Memory in these new devices. We are seeing jumps to 768mb for some, and 512mb for others. Would have been good to hear your takes on that, and if this os 6.1 evolution thing will finally allow us to install applications to storage memory.

Good job as always guys. Keep up the good work ;)

I will admit I know NOTHING about NFC except what I heard on the podcast...but it all seems very "Big Brother-ish" being able to track where you are, at what time, and what you've bought???

your bank knows this already. They know all of your purchase patterns and they use that information.

I saw somewhere on the youtube where they demoed the notification thing on Playbook, basically it will have two kinds of notifications, one being via LED and other a software enabled notification meaning a graphic(like a triangle) would blink on the top left most corner of the app window that you are on.

I was told the same thing, but haven't see that in action yet.  If you have the youtube url, let us know... i searched but couldn't find any vids showing that. thx!

@waterloo888

First I would like to say that the iphone does not run a monolithic kernel, the iphone is Darwin just like desktop osx is. XNU is a "hybrid" kernel, Apple essentially took the Mach Kernel and the traditional monolithic BSD Kernel and out came XNU. That is very much over simplified but I think it makes the point.

If you open a terminal on an iphone and run 'uname' it will print Darwin just as it will do if you do the same on desktop osx. You are correct about Linux being a monolithic kernel, I don't think you fully appreciate what the benefits or downside to the two different designs are though. A monolithic kernel is much more "simplistic" (it's hard to say simplistic but relative to a microkernel arch it is) it is much easier to debug, maintain, and is overall faster and the way to go imho.

The idea with a monolithic kernel is everything is running in kernel space which is where the speed factor comes from but then again you've got a lot of different things going on and potentially able to bring down the whole thing. Like I said everything is running in kernel space so your drivers, file systems, etc all running in kernel space and able to invoke havoc on your system if something goes wrong since everything is running in the same address space.

Now the idea of a microkernel is to move as much out of kernel space as possible, this is nice because you're able to run drivers, file systems, etcetera in user space which has benefits with security, system stability but the negative side to that is you've got a lot of communication going on between kernel and user space which is expensive and especially so on small weak mobile processors not to mention microkernels are just inherently more complex and harder to debug (look at where GNU Hurd is today as opposed to the Linux Kernel)

Darwin is a pretty impressive operating system from a technical standpoint and is (open source code!!! too) but I still think the modern day 2.6.x Linux Kernel is just such an amazing piece of code and so well written, an example of this is just the fact that it is running on some of the smallest and weakest gadgets out there to the largest and most powerful supercomputers today. This level of scalability and managing to be stable and efficient anywhere between is something to really admire.

I'm excited about QNX and what it is going to mean to us blackberry users in the near future but I think it is always wise to be skeptical and not make any opinions about technical merit based on a companies talking points which is essentially what we are all doing at this point. Also I am a little bit put-off by them saying POSIX compliant, insinuating you're going to just be able to take code written for other unix-like systems and just recompile it which as we know is not the case and it just goes to further water-down the meaning and idea of the POSIX standard. Microsoft Windows NT is considered "posix compliant" and we all know what a joke that is and the fact that Microsoft can even legally say that is appalling.

Don't want to be a downer but thought I'd throw in my two cents on this whole deal.

Although agree with you on some of the things but not all of them esp the QNX scalability aspect and secondly QNX is not just POSIX like but 100% POSIX certified. There are 100's of customers who have ported their existing applications, libs from LINUX to QNX with out much effort. you can get their testimonials from the web.

About the scalability aspect, google for 3com Audrey and not many know that QNX made a tablet OS before many others, Audrey runs QNX and has a 200 MHz Geode GX 1 CPU, with 16 MB of flash ROM and 32 MB of RAM. QNX can very much run on current BB's hardware but they are too early in their development phase, give them some time you will see them cruising on all kinds of hardware.

Cisco's IOS (router OS) initially ran monolith OS and ran in to all kinds of problems and they latter moved to QNX, as a result IOS-XR was released with Cisco's CRS-1, the highest-capacity Internet router ever developed uses QNX. How high? Enough to handle up to 92 trillion bits per second, which is equivalent to all the Internet traffic of a single mid-sized country. Or enough to squirt out 18,000 CDs per second.

My point is the biggest advantage of QNX is scalability, one can upscale it to be desktop capable or downscale it to run in embedded devices like handhelds, tablets etc depending on the need.

I also feel maintenance and debugging should be fairly easy on QNX than Monolithic OSes, especially when we look at the lines of code. 9 September 2009 - Linux 2.6.31 was released (has 12,046,317 lines of code) where as compare that to QNX micro kernel which has around approx 100,000 lines of code. And if we go by the sheer #lines code then Linux is bound to have more bugs per million lines of code than QNX and also the maintenance.

@eeefak

Completely agree with your thoughts re: Android and iOS. I didn't mean to imply that one style kernel implementation is definitively superior than the others. I have no doubt that both Google and Apple will ensure a continued presence in the mobile computing space for the next decade. This debate between microkernels vs. monolithic has been raging for years between people with far deeper knowledge than I have on the topic.

However, I think it's unfair to associate the GNU Hurd problems with the QNX microkernel. You are 100% correct about the messaging overhead issues with GNU Hurd, but QNX's system took a novel approach to interprocess messaging and CPU scheduling that effectively addressed those issues and resulted in an order of magnitude improvement of prior microkernel implementations.

The other exciting aspect that the QNX platform provides is the future possibility of a truly distributed system upon which to build multiple "Blackberry environments". Think of multiple QNX OS powered peripherals (smartphone, tablet, notebook, TV, car, etc.) which can dynamically share network resources across one another. QNX was purpose built for this type of environment. This is powerful stuff and why RIM is telling people that they are now a true "mobile computing company", not simply a smartphone maker. Admittedly this stuff is probably years into the future but this is where the company is headed, and they have as good a software platform as any of the competition, in my opinion. Execution is obviously a huge factor, as the best technology obviously doesn't always win, but RIM has a great set of tools to address this market.

I don't really understand the PIN discussions. if I have a blackberry I'll just be using playbook to do BBM through my phone, that is I've already got a pin. If I don't won a black berry I don't BBM anyhow so why would I be pissed that it doesn't have a pin and I can't BBM.

Do people really think there are a ton of non blackberry users who are going to buy a playbook so they can BBM? I think They's rather just access facebook, but maybe I'm missing something else that having a PIN does.

yes, you are right for the most part, I don't except a lot of non-blackberry users buying PB initially but latter word of mouth publicity will bring back many to the RIM's fold. Their point however on the webcast anyways is why miss that small window of opportunity? and even if RIM were to provide native PIM I don't see a lot of non-blackberry users buying PB initially but it could help them curtail negative publicity from the US bloggers and the street and these days they are hell bent on turning anything even remotely positive for RIM to negative propaganda and in such a circumstances you cannot afford give them a chance.

Boy you got that one right.

I read an article on Bloomberg the other day about why all the iPad loving execs still had blackberries. It was for communication of course, neither the iPhone nor the iPad could match it. But then it went on to explain that "having the agenda on the iPad really opened up their eyes" to the possibility of the iPad in the corporate world.... meanwhile not a peep on the Playbook.

To me the story should have been iPads here today but dead tomorrow since business people will just not give up their blackberries and, again, why bother to pay to have your email twice.

The guys on the podcast doubt that the playbook is enterprise ready saying that it has no apps, but as I recall everyone at SAP has been pretty positive about the playbook from day one. Gotta think there is some action going on there.

Apps alone don't make it enterprise ready.. You can have all the apps in the world ready for it, doesn't mean those apps are secure / functional enough to run in an enterprise environment. That's part of the problem with the general concensus of any platform today. People seem to think apps are the only thing that matters. While they do play a huge role in the success or failure of any platform they are still just one piece of the puzzle especially when it comes to use in enterprise environments.

Umm I didn't say just Apps I said SAP I think they know something about enterprises.

What I get from the podcast is not enterprise ready, not ready for consumers, not ready at all. I'd be worried if I didn't know it was a bunch of (mostly) Canadians on the podcast :) and iPad fan boys to boot.

I've only listened to the part where they discuss the Playbook so far. I also got from them that its just not ready. In fact I thought for a moment I was listening to an Engaget Podcast or something.

Well that was the point of incorporating Flash as the PlayBook can log into their secure programs the same way the desktop/laptop users do. The eUnity demonstration showed this in action. They had the PlayBook supported on their secure servers in two hours.

The PlayBook allows a different strategy than what RIM is pushing for their smartphones. Because of the limitations of the smartphone platforms, integration with the device is better than a web portal link. But with the power and security of the PlayBook, a web portal link can be the easier approach.

There are many internal applications designed for desktops that exist in the enterprise world that we consumers never see. RIM is providing the tools for seamless integration with the PlayBook.

They are not following the gameplan of Apple when it comes to tablets and business which will allow them penetration into sectors beyond sales and management.

Just a heads up to the podcasters. There seem to be some misconceptions as to what NFC is. Near Field Communcation is a reader & smart card in one chip. So basically an NFC chip allows you to either read data from another NFC/RFID source or write data to the NFC chip for another reader to then read. NFC *can* be used for payment services (your Visa/Mastercard) is one half of an NFC chip, the reader you "touch" to pay is the other half. NFC can transfer arbitrary data, it could be weblinks or files or payment info. Think of it as a generic data service and not just payments :).

Bla1ze is absolutely correct about the NFC stuff. I'm a Marketing major and we've been talking about NFC/RFID and how it's going advance data mining for months. Once these device are main stream, tracking consumers shopping habits will beyond so easy. Companies will be able to targeting coupon, sales, and new products directly to consumer just based on their location with a store or mall. For example: you walk into a mall and have a habit of shopping at the Gap, so you walk by the Gap and your device alerts you that you have a Gap coupon or there is a sell on your favorite pants. Once you walk into the Gap, your shopping experience is tailored to your past purchases (pants size, shirt size, etc.). The technology is wonderfully scary especially if your a Android user(Google the world larger data miner).

To post a new M*****f*****g blob before midnight PST this has been chilling here all weekend is there not anything else to talk about?