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Research in Motion’s make-or-break Blackberry 10 is out today. It sports a completely new operating system, with a user interface designed by RIM-acquired The Astonishing Tribe. Ahead of the official announcement, there’s a cache of screen grabs over at BGR that reveal the UI to be remarkably… okay.
The Blackberry brand has never been synonymous with outstanding design, and RIM seems intent on at least acknowledging the new reality of highly designed smartphone interfaces — but it can manage little more than that, judging from these screens. None of what is on display here — the clean yet unremarkable typography, the tasteful but de rigueur color gradients, the straightforward but rudimentary iconography, the communicative but nearly featureless spinners, arrows and other visual cues — is particularly distinctive or unique to Blackberry. In fact, they demonstrate a startling lack of character, almost a willful desire to be mistaken for any other random operating system.
In a market this tight, where Apple and Google’s duopoly relegates players like RIM to merely vying for third place, this feels like a tremendous missed opportunity. Here was a chance for RIM to emphatically and visually declare how Blackberry 10 was clearly, dramatically different from its competition.
It’s true that, given time, what we see here, combined with what would need to be superb execution on the business side, could possibly become distinctive to RIM. But as Windows has shown, and as Palm notably showed, it’s entirely possible to establish a unique design language from the first.
Of course, that hasn’t done nearly as much as one would like to think for the former, and did almost nothing to save the latter. Design is not everything, I have to keep reminding myself.+