RIM biffs it with BBX and post-outage response

BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion biffed its response to last week’s massive outage and worse yet, is coming up short at this week’s BlackBerry DevCon Americas conference. With every month that passes, the smartphone pioneer loses more runway, and with it the ability to carry the BlackBerry brand forward.

Last week’s major outage did no favors for BlackBerry’s already tarnished image. The company needed a strong response to the snafu and should feel tremendous pressure to deliver something meaningful in a few key areas.

Calling its half-hearted apology for last week’s outage a “Thank You Gift from BlackBerry” was poor form. First and foremost, BlackBerry users want their devices to work. A dozen free apps worth $100 will do nothing to keep customers happy. Rather than rewarding its dwindling base of loyal users with something meaningful, RIM is offering its customers apps like SIMS 3, Texas Hold’em Poker 2, Shazam Encore and iSpeech Translator Pro.

Once it gets past actually making things work, RIM still faces an ongoing challenge to deliver a new platform and better devices. To even stand a chance of reversing its decline, RIM needs to release new products and get its new operating system off the ground. Something tangible was needed this week. Instead, developers and industry insiders were treated to demonstrations, big plans and ideas.

RIM can ill afford another OS unveiling that doesn’t deliver. But that’s what developers got this week with BBX, the company’s next-generation OS that will merge the existing BlackBerry OS with the QNX platform it acquired more than 18 months ago.

While the world waits for RIM’s long-delayed response to Android and iOS, the only beta developers got their hands on this week is BlackBerry PlayBook OS 2.0. The primary function of this release is to give developers the ability to load Android apps via BlackBerry Runtime for Android, but it’s limited to one under-performing tablet. Not much for developers to hang their future on, at this point.

The old guard of Java is finally coming down as well. The new BlackBerry OS, BBX, does not support Java apps but supports apps built on HTML5 and WebWorks, languages RIM has been transitioning to for some time. The move away from Java isn’t a surprise, but it also highlights a significant shift away from the BlackBerry developers who originally found their way onto the platform via the Java ME engine.

RIM’s problem is that it has nothing new to show. It looks like that will be the case for the remainder of the year too. In the meantime, more BlackBerry customers will flee and land in the wide-open arms of Android or iOS.