BlackBerry maker offers preview of new OS

Thorsten Heins, president and CEO of Research In Motion, delivered the keynote speech Tuesday during the BlackBerry World conference.

LOS ANGELES – Research in Motion Ltd., hoping for a boost for its struggling smartphones, gave developers a sneak peek at its upcoming BlackBerry 10 operating system, expected to be released sometime this year.

At the company’s BlackBerry World 2012 event today in Orlando, Fla., new Chief Executive Thorsten Heins unveiled a prototype of the system in front of 5,000 customers, developers and other attendees.

In a 47-second video that the company also shared online, a customer uses a BlackBerry 10 smartphone to scroll through emails and crisp photos; quickly type, with the help of predictive text, on a touch screen; watch videos; and sync the phone to a television screen.

The video had a generally positive reception from YouTube viewers, with 824 likes and 72 dislikes at midday today. But the top comments were: “iOS 3.0 > BlackBerry 10” and “Android 2.0 > BlackBerry 10,” referring to Apple’s and Google’s popular operating systems.

RIM said the operating system will allow users to continually access content between applications, so “whether you are browsing the Internet or organizing meetings with a glancing gesture, BlackBerry 10 immerses you into conversations. It streams all feeds to one place and applications keep running – creating an agile and nimble experience.”

The OS also increases keyboard responsiveness through a touch keyboard that uses modeling algorithms to learn where the user presses for each letter, “becoming tailored to the user’s hand like a glove.”

And camera enhancements will enable BlackBerry 10 users to tap anywhere on the screen to take a photo.

RIM has kept mum on the actual release date for BlackBerry 10, which will be available in phones and tablets. The Canadian company desperately needs the operating system to be a hit, as its reputation has slipped in recent quarters. In the U.S. in particular, consumers have shifted to trendier iPhones and Android devices.

BlackBerry continues to have a loyal following in developing countries. Heins said Tuesday that “for more than 77 million people across the globe, BlackBerry helps them succeed on a daily basis.”