BlackBerry Torch Offers New Tools for IT

By Susan Nunziata  |  Posted 08-03-2010

BlackBerry Torch Offers New Tools for IT

It's a brave new world of enterprise mobility, one in which it is necessary to win the hearts and minds of consumer users in order to thrive in the business environment. With the introduction of the BlackBerry Torch 9800 and its new BlackBerry OS6, Research In Motion (RIM) made clear that it understands this new dynamic. Even though BlackBerry devices remain the darlings of enterprise mobility in North America, contenders such as iPhone and Droid have been making steady inroads, driven largely by worker demand to connect their personal devices to corporate email and business applications.

The "big reveal" of the BlackBerry Torch - RIM's first capacitive touchscreen device with a slide-out keyboard - at an event in New York City on August 3 focused heavily on the consumer-friendly universal search, media and social networking capabilities of the device and its new operating system. But the device readily meets the needs of business users who are increasingly looking to marry work and personal lives into a single device, while its new operating system gives IT new levels of granularity into how users profile and permissions are set up.

The BlackBerry Torch 9800 is available for sale August 12, 2010, via AT&T for $199 with a two-year contract plus data plan. The new BlackBerry OS 6 that debuts on the Torch is also designed to run on select BlackBerry devices that are already in market. Subject to carrier certifications in the months ahead, the new OS 6 is expected to be available for the BlackBerry Bold 9700, BlackBerry Bold 9650 and BlackBerry Pearl 3G, as well as future BlackBerry smart phones.

With OS 6, RIM enhances the capabilities of IT to selectively lock down features of the smart phone without changing the user's personal profile. For example, IT can choose not to allow users to copy and paste information from a business application into a consumer application, Andrew Bocking, VP Handheld Software Product Management, tells CIO Insight.

"It's like a virtual firewall for IT," says Bocking. "It gives IT the plumbing to manage security, while being transparent to the end user." In recognition of the growing trend of permitting employee-liable smart phones in the enterprise, Bocking also notes that when a Torch user departs an organization, IT will have the ability to wipe only the business features, while leaving the user's personal data intact. "It gives IT the granular level of control that they need," Bocking says.

BlackBerry OS 6 offers some nifty new options for advanced applications, but David Yach, CTO Software with RIM, notes that "Apps that already exist for 5.0 or earlier [operating systems] will continue to run on BlackBerry 6, so people don't lose investment in current apps."

This is of particular importance for enterprises that may be using core business applications based on the earlier OS. Jung Pyon, Director of Product Management for RIM, notes that longstanding and popular BlackBerry enterprise applications will need to undergo a verification process to make sure they're compatible. "There may be things that need to be tweaked" to accommodate the Torch's 3.2-inch touchscreen, says Pyon. "We're going through the verification process right now to make sure that there are no issues with our most-used enterprise apps," he adds. The goal, Pyon says, is to have the largest possible number of enterprise apps verified by next week's launch date.

BlackBerry OS Details

BlackBerry 6 features a redesigned interface that works with touch screen and trackpad. It includes expanded messaging capabilities with intuitive features to simplify the management of social networking and RSS feeds (Social Feeds), and provides integrated access to BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and various instant messaging applications. Multimedia options include dedicated YouTube and Podcasts apps.

BlackBerry 6 also integrates a new and rich WebKit-based browser on BlackBerry Torch that renders HTML web pages (as well as HTML email) with speed and clarity. It features tabs for accessing multiple sites simultaneously, pinch to zoom for easy navigation and an auto-wrap text zoom feature that can intelligently wrap text in a column while maintaining the placement of a page's key elements (simply double-tap on the BlackBerry Torch).

Universal search, always accessible from the Home Screen, allows users to search through email, messages, contacts, music, videos and more on the smartphone, as well as extend search to the Internet or to discover applications in the BlackBerry App World.

The BlackBerry Torch supports AT&T's advanced messaging features for SMS and MMS. RIM's new Text Messages application supports AT&T's next-generation messaging experience, which includes group messaging with "reply all" functionality for up to 10 contacts. And, for the first time, AT&T's platform includes a new Locations feature.

Locations lets users easily search for points of interest, businesses, and even the user's own location, and insert this information directly into a message, all without leaving the messaging application. Using group messaging and locations together, users can arrange to meet a group of friends easily by sending one message to all of them, discussing together where to meet and then sending a map - all in one threaded conversation. AT&T designed the service based on research that revealed customers want features that help facilitate social planning, improved message organization and location sharing.

Easy Apps Access

After powering up the BlackBerry Torch smartphone for the first time, users will see a set of pre-loaded icons which allow them to download and immediately begin using a variety of rich entertainment and social networking applications to access Bloomberg, ESPN, The Weather Channel and Slacker Radio content in addition to Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and more. Also available is AT&T's Web Video Search, a unique new app that searches video content from over 70 major Internet video websites.

In addition to searching the Internet for video, the BlackBerry Torch smartphone features multimedia apps that enable users download TV shows and watch live TV, as well as create video content and upload it to YouTube. The new Podcasts application makes it easy for users to find and manage audio and video podcasts.

Another application that puts a key function of a phone at your fingertips is Visual Voicemail, which benefits customers by allowing them to select the voicemails they want to hear first.

The BlackBerry Torch 9800 is also the first BlackBerry smartphone to include BlackBerry App World pre-installed, supporting carrier billing through AT&T, making it easier for customers to discover and purchase applications.

BlackBerry Torch Spec Sheet

  • Measurements: 4.4" (5.8" open) x 2.4" x .57" and weighing 5.68 ouncesDisplay: 3.2" 360x480 capacitive touch screen display35-key full QWERTY backlit slide-out keyboardOptical trackpad 624 Mhz processor with 512 MB Flash memory
  • 4 GB built-in memory storage plus a microSD/SDHD memory card slot that supports up to 32 GB cards; a 4 GB card is included giving users 8 GB of storage out-of-the-box
  • 5 MP camera with flash, continuous auto focus, image stabilization, scene modes, geo-tagging and zoom, as well as video recording at up to 640x480 resolution
  • Built-in GPS for location-based applications and geo-tagging
  • Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g/n), which qualifying subscribers can use to connect to more than 20,000 AT&T Wi-Fi hotspots at no additional cost
  • 3.5mm stereo headset jack
  • Phone features: voice activated dialing, speakerphone and Bluetooth (2.1) with support for hands-free headsets, stereo headsets, car kits (including systems that support the Bluetooth Message Access Profile standard) and other Bluetooth accessories
  • New BlackBerry Desktop Software 6 with integrated media sync for syncing music, photos and videos
  • Wi-Fi Music Sync, a unique feature that allows users to view an entire iTunes or Windows Media Player music library from the smart phone, create and edit playlists as well as select music for download. When in range of a home Wi-Fi network (or via USB), the changes are synced with iTunes or Windows Media Player and songs are automatically downloaded to the smartphone
  • Cellular Connectivity: Tri-band HSDPA (3G) and quad-band EDGE support for the option of voice service in more than 220 countries, data service in more than 195 countries and 3G connectivity in more than 125 countries, including Japan and South Korea
  • Removable, rechargeable 1300 mAhr battery that provides approximately 5.8 hours of talk time on 3G networks or 30 hours of audio playback or 6 hours of video playback

Details for Developers

A new Java SDK, BlackBerry Java SDK v6.0, will support BlackBerry OS 6, and support for HTML5 has also been added. The Java SDK takes advantage of new UI features, offers deeper integration with BlackBerry smart phones than was previously available, allows access to new and enhanced services and support for rendering and porting content to a new WebKit-based browser.

BlackBerry Java SDK v6.0 focuses on providing developers with tools to create rich, visually appealing applications on the BlackBerry Application Platform and make it easier to integrate capabilities that have traditionally been difficult for developers.  The BlackBerry developer community can now access more than 40 new APIs that allow them to build visually rich and deeply integrated applications that take advantage of the new features in BlackBerry 6.

The BlackBerry Java SDK v6.0 features pre-built UI elements, including contextual menus, tables, lists, inertial scrolling, activity progress indicators, pane managers, tool bars, title bars and sub menus. The new browser in BlackBerry 6 leverages a WebKit rendering engine and developers will be able to build dynamic web sites and rich mobile applications as well as advanced widgets that can be seamlessly integrated with the browser and core native applications. BlackBerry Widgets and web applications designed for the BlackBerry Browser v 5.0 will be forward-compatible to the new browser.

With the added support of HTML5 in the new BlackBerry 6 Browser, web developers will be able to create content for BlackBerry smartphones that is run through the web, including compelling games and interactive media with 3D graphics in real time and more.

Developers can use new APIs to integrate applications with various aspects of a BlackBerry smart phone's core functionality. The Unified Search Framework API will allow developers to register their application and their content partners to be searchable, as well as provide a mechanism for in-app search. The Mapfield API has been redesigned to provide enhanced features including panning, zooming, my location and convenience toolbars. Developers can call the Mapfield API to customize the look of location data and can use multiple mapfields simultaneously on the same screen for added user benefits.

The Location Service has been enhanced with a Wi-Fi Geolocation API, allowing developers to build applications that leverage a handset's location based on its proximity to Wi-Fi networks. The API builds on the LBS features already available to developers through cell tower location and GPS. Reverse Geocoding now allows applications to leverage zip/postal codes to obtain local information. The Travel Time API brings estimated time of arrival (ETA) information into applications. The ETA is based on anonymous real-time crowd sourced data combined with historical traffic information.