Apple announced the iPhone 5 earlier this week. The big surprise this time around was the complete lack of any surprise. With a lot of help from iMore team, who accurately exposed most of the details, pretty much *everything* was known about this phone before Apple CEO Tim Cook and his crew took to the stage. 

I'm not saying the iPhone 5 is a bad product, just to be clear.  It's an inevitable evolution on the product that has come to define Apple.  It's not obvious to the casual observer, but Apple really did redesign the phone from the ground up.  They just kept a very similar form factor.  I guess if it ain't broke, don't fix it, right?  

In a nutshell, what Apple unveiled with the iPhone 5 is a better iPhone.  They are not really making the existing mobile experience that much better.  It's not a game changer for the company.  Even from a software perspective, the world was shown what iOS6 could do back at WWDC. Obviously Apple remains very well positioned in the market and the new iPhone 5 is going to sell well. Apple will continue to make oodles of cash. But this is a BlackBerry site and the question to be discussed is what does the iPhone 5 mean to Research In Motion's roll out of BlackBerry 10?  

Leading up to the Apple keynote, my biggest fear for BlackBerry was that Apple would show off an iPhone that actually offered an improved mobile experience. But they didn't. Thinking back to our recent 10 things we're Looking Forward to in BlackBerry 10 so far post, the iPhone 5 doesn't step on any of BlackBerry 10's toes. RIM's differentiation and positioning of BlackBerry 10 is just as unique and strong with the iPhone 5 on the market as it was when the iPhone 4S was Apple's flagship iPhone. The sooner BlackBerry 10 hits the market the better, but the fact that the iPhone 5 has landed first doesn't hurt RIM's chances of launching BlackBerry 10 successfully. This isn't some reactive comment either.  Back in June I explained my view that it doesn't matter if the iPhone 5 launches before BlackBerry 10.  

BlackBerry 10 isn't going to outsell the iPhone at launch.  Nobody expects it to, and RIM doesn't need this to be successful. And I'm not looking for an iClone. I'm looking for a better BlackBerry experience. RIM just needs to deliver a solid product and market its strong message that BlackBerry people get stuff done. As we saw on Wednesday, even CNBC's tech reporter covered the iPhone launch event with his BlackBerry because its messaging capabilities are far superior.

Notice that Apple didn't focus on improving the user interface in iOS or on enabling multitasking.  These are RIM core strengths.  They will allow BlackBerry 10 to stand out.  The "flow" of experience of BlackBerry 10 will stand out. These are the kinds of things that will cause some people to come back to BlackBerry even if they've been trying Android or Apple products.  Just take a look at the poll results from Crackberry Nation. RIM needs to make sure it has a sufficient app and content ecosystem story to tell when BlackBerry 10 phones hit the market, but from a hardware and operating system standpoint, things are almost looking better for BlackBerry post iPhone 5 than they did before. 

The playing field is starting to level out now.  When Steve Jobs first announced the iPhone he said Apple was 5 years ahead of the competition.  He may have been right about that lead.  But I think it's safe to say the gap is closing. Just take a look at these comparisons of the iPhone 5 versus the Lumia 920 and the iPhone 5 vs. the Samsung Galaxy S3. RIM obviously has to jump back in the game here.  They've been sitting on the sidelines for a while, hoping products like the Bold 9900 would compete for the time being.  But that hasn't been working out as well as it needs to and we're all excited to see the official launch of BlackBerry 10.  

The bottom line is that Apple hasn't changed things much with its iPhone 5.  RIM's challenges and opportunites are the same in an iPhone 5 world as they were in a iPhone 4S world. The people who want to buy Apple products will still buy Apple products.  Those who prefer the BlackBerry user experience are still going to buy BB10. And I can understand why.  The amazing virtual keyboard (and choice of a physical keyboard!), the "flow" experience, the TRUE one-handed UI design, the solid multitasking ... that's what I want. I want a mobile experience that's saving me seconds every time I pick it up and use it. And that's what BlackBerry 10 is about.

Must-Read Related Article: 10 Things We're Looking Forward to in BlackBerry 10 So Far